On the 9th January 2013, my life was irreversibly changed.
Lydia, my wife, unfortunately suffered a sudden heart attack at home. She was rushed to Basildon Accident & Emergency fighting for her own life and the life of our unborn son, with whom she was 24 weeks and 6 days pregnant. Within minutes of her arrival, I was told that they would have to undertake an emergency caesarean section to have any chance of saving Lydia. They attempted to prepare me, warning that both lives could be lost in the next five minutes.
Noah Robert Hobden arrived at 8:15am, weighing 1 pound 15 ounces (870g), some 15 weeks earlier than expected.
Following a mammoth effort from a 52 person strong accident & emergency team, both Lydia and Noah were given fighting chances at life. They were whisked off to respective adult & neonatal (baby) intensive care units. Noah had to be transferred to The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, as Basildon is not equipped for such a premature baby for extensive periods. A dedicated team transported Noah by special Baby Ambulance.
Following an induced coma, Lydia thankfully awoke two days later, with a few memory issues, to the news that she was the proud mum of Noah. A husband’s relief and thanks together with that of family and friends, remain immeasurable. We could never thank the ambulance crews; baby transport staff, A&E teams, wards nurses, doctors, clerks and tea ladies enough! They are truly heroes who do so much for too little!!
Lydia was discharged from hospital some 12 days later. Her heart attack was attributed to a blood clot and a previously undiagnosed heart condition. We strongly accredited her miraculous recovery to her maternal instinct to be with Noah.
When we arrived at Noah's bedside, we were warned regularly by nurses and doctors that we were in for a rollercoaster ride. There is no more apt a metaphor, for the highs and lows we experienced on the neonatal ward. The initial shock at the rows of incubators, then at our son in one of them - a baby so small, covered in so many tubes and wires, reliant on so many machines and medicines to keep him alive. The sound of monitors, alarms and buzzers was constant. We came to learn that sometimes they were a source of comfort, but they could also quickly become a source of anguish and concern.
During our time on Ward 8D we kept vigil at his bedside. We didn’t know anything of the foreign world that they call NICU and we certainly didn’t know how to be parents to a premature baby. Through the help and encouragement of the staff on the ward we learnt how to care and provide comfort to our son. We saw many comings and goings, with a diverse mix of babies and families. We met other families all of us drawn together in such desperate times. We shared words at the tea point, hushed updates at bedsides, knowing nods, hugs and sometimes tears. We also bonded with smiles, laughs and congratulations upon hearing news of a baby doing well. Unfortunately there were babies, who like Noah, with all the best efforts of the medical teams, were not destined to come home. However many stories with happy endings and ward visits from ex-patients inspired every parent to hope. These bundles of joy motivated us to dare to see beyond the wires and tubes - to believe everything would be okay!
Noah was one of the youngest premature babies on the ward when he arrived. He developed a devoted following of nurses and doctors, who came to know his personality and his many abilities. Noah was able to crib attention at will, principally by holding his breath or by dislodging his breathing tube. He must have surpassed a ward record for the number of emergency re-intubations he needed (the insertion of a new breathing tube in his airway). These all secured him the nickname 'Naughty Noah' and phrases like 'that's just Noah' were commonly heard on the ward. Our little guy had tricks in spades, but ultimately his biggest trick of all was to fool us all into thinking he was developing and getting better. He had endeared himself so deeply on to the ward that he was genuinely loved. All who came in contact with him willed him on, truly full of hope, believing he would be ok.
Sadly on day 90, following a series of routine tests, we were told that Noah’s brain had failed to develop and he suffered a significant degree of brain damage. His extreme prematurity had prevented the medical staff from doing these tests earlier. The results were checked and double-checked by top doctors in the field. These findings would mean our little boy would never leave hospital....... As parents we were faced with the toughest decision of our lives.
A day later, on 10th April 2013, Noah was allowed to pass away peacefully and with dignity, in Daddy's arms. Noah was 91 days old.
(Above) Noah aged 3 days under a plastic sheet to keep him warm.
(Below) Noah aged 3 months giving a high five!