In March last year at 16 weeks pregnant we went along to a gender scan and left with our world turned upside down as we were told there was something wrong with our baby, we were sent straight to A&E but had to wait a few days to see a specialist who confirmed our baby boy had a condition called gastroschisis which is where his tummy hadn’t formed properly and his intestines were growing on the outside of his body, we were told our local hospital wouldn’t be able to treat him due to his complex condition and that he would need to be born at a specialist hospital in order for him to have the surgery he would need immediately after birth to save his life.

After living the rest of the pregnancy scan to scan our baby boy Oakley stayed so strong all the way up to our goal of 37 weeks, Oakley arrived in August and spent 4 weeks at The John Radcliffe hospital 1 hour and 30 minutes from our home. He went through surgery for the first 12 days of his life to gradually have everything put back inside his tummy, which at the time felt like 12 years. Watching him go through such a big procedure whilst he was so tiny as well as fighting multiple infections was incredibly hard but it was made easier by two charities that we honestly don’t know how we would have coped without - The Ronald McDonald House charity & SSNAP - Support for Sick Newborns and Parents, which is why we are climbing Mount Snowdon to raise money.

The day after Oakley was born we were given a room in the Ronald McDonald house which was 2 minutes from the neonatal intensive care unit and we honestly can’t describe how having somewhere to sleep, shower and cook whilst still being on the hospital grounds took so much stress away. Every room is designated to a communal kitchen where each family has there own fridge/freezer space and access to all the facilities needed to wash clothes and make meals, meaning we didn’t have to spend a fortune on takeaways. The house is full of toys & has a big garden, our room slept up to 4 which meant we were able to have Maisey (our 4 year old) come for sleepovers. Without this we would have had to make the 3 hour round trip home and back each day just to shower and sleep and there was no other option for us than to be with Oakley, even though it was soul destroying leaving him in the NICU each night we are so grateful the Ronald McDonald house kept us so close to him.

The ladies from the charity SSNAP came round the NICU each day and provided emotional support, meal vouchers, snacks and helpful gifts for both Maisey and Oakley including a siblings book which explained about the unit and why Oakley was there in a child friendly way. SSNAP had previously set up the NICU on an app called V-Create which allows the nurses to send photos, videos and updates to parents so even in the middle of the night we always knew how Oakley was doing.

Oakley is such a happy little boy now and without looking at the impressive scar on his tummy thankfully you would never know he had such a difficult start in life and we often think about how much harder this time would have been if it wasn’t for the help we kindly received. We are climbing Mount snowdon to raise money, we would be so grateful for any donations and know how helpful they will be. Thank you for taking the time to read our story!

Alex & Fern

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