‘I remember the date well – 1st October 2021. We had thought very little of being sent into Aberdeen with Connor for a check up following a visit to the G.P. Myself, Amanda, and my partner Stewart headed into Aberdeen just after lunch on 1st October. I was heavily pregnant, due the following week, so I decided to pack my hospital bag in the car just in case. Little did we know how much we would need that hospital bag.
Connor had been having some episodes of headaches at the back of his head and some sickness early in the morning. I knew it wasn’t a bug but I also didn’t expect the scan in Aberdeen to find a brain tumour. Connor was three and to be told this news was absolutely devastating.
We didn’t have time to think about the logistics of everything, we just knew they needed us down in Glasgow as soon as possible. Connor and his Dad were flown down by the Air Ambulance plane, another service we are incredibly grateful for. I was driven down separately by my brother, still not really considering what we would do when we arrived. I began to have contractions on the journey down, likely due to all the stress, however these luckily petered out by the time we arrived. We arrived at 3am in Glasgow and we couldn’t find a hotel room, I also didn’t want to head up to the ward at that time. At 6am I decided to get checked out at the maternity assessment unit where my waters broke shortly after arrival. They allowed me to leave and visit Connor as there was not a space in labour ward at that time.
Connor had to have a drain inserted immediately as the pressure in his brain was becoming increasingly dangerous. We had not thought about accommodation and were still on autopilot, taking each hour as it came. My waters continued to leak but very little else was happening. The ward helped us to find a hotel room for the night. Luckily my parents had travelled down with us therefore we were able to leave Connor with them while we tried to sleep, not that we got much of that. I was feeling reduced movements so decided to return to the maternity assessment unit on Saturday evening just to make sure everything was O.K. with the baby. They monitored the baby and due to my situation wanted to get me down to labour ward as soon as possible, however they were extremely busy. Little did we know at that point that I would be in a ward until the following evening when a space became available. All the while, I was unable to see Connor and my partner was having to split his time between the two of us.
Sophie was born on 3rd October at 23:03 by emergency C-Section. This was due to complications and as we found out at birth she was wrapped in her cord. I realised someone must have been looking out for us to stop her being born on the journey down from Aberdeen. Again, we were not thinking much further ahead as we tried to enjoy the special first moments and hours with Sophie whilst Connor was never far from our thoughts.
Ronald McDonald House came to our rescue finding us accommodation within their residence. I had not heard much about the accommodation prior to this, and I certainly was not aware of their complete reliance on fundraising to allow this incredibly vital service to continue. I was even more grateful when I was quite swiftly discharged from hospital after 36 hours. I was so much more relaxed knowing I had a place to rest my head even though we had very little else. We had rallied friends and family to transport everything we would need for however long we were going to be there. At that point we did not know exactly what type of tumour was growing inside my little boy’s head and what the plan would be for treatment, so we had to prepare.
The staff at the House were incredible and ensured there was a travel cot for Sophie to sleep (should our moses basket not make it down on time) and a comfortable chair to allow me to feed Sophie. They were so compassionate and sensitive and really could not do enough for us. They eased some of the pressure we were facing and allowed us to focus our attention on Connor. They were there day and night and made us feel safe and comfortable in our own little world. The set up in the accommodation is incredible allowing you to live as close to normal a life as possible. The room is well equipped, they even found a fridge for us to make things even easier with a newborn baby. Each room has kitchen storage and there were kitchen spaces to cook, eat and ensure families felt at home. This was particularly important for some of the families with other children whom would need to continue to experience normal daily activities like sitting down and having a family meal.
Each day became quite robotic, I would feed Sophie and leave her with my Mum at Ronald McDonald to make the journey to see Connor at the hospital each day. I found it very difficult to walk any distance so being so close to the hospital was essential to allow us to remain together as a family. I used the hospital buggy service to get me to the hospital doors and I can’t even begin to imagine what this would have been like if we had had to stay in a hotel elsewhere. We took our time introducing Connor to Sophie as we did not want him to associate meeting her with the pain of being in hospital, again being so close to the accommodation allowed us to do this.
Connor had brain surgery the following week to remove the tumour. His neurosurgeon Roddy O’Kane was the best neurosurgeon there was and the care he received from the staff on the ward and surgery was the best possible while in their care. Connor’s operation kept getting pushed back due to the lack of available beds in intensive care and therefore knowing we did not need to keep thinking about where we had to stay took this stress away from us. He needed time to recover and to receive the biopsy results which very thankfully told us the tumour was benign and slow growing, with most of it removed in surgery.
Our stay at Ronald McDonald was two weeks (although it felt like months) which was very costly for the charity, many families stay for much longer periods. My brother was due to run an ultra-marathon whilst we were staying in Glasgow and decided, due to our situation, to raise money for Ronald McDonald House in Glasgow. We realised how incredibly important this was as they rely solely on fundraising and donations from the public and the house in Glasgow is run independently from other houses of this nature around the world. He raised almost £2000 which will go some way to support other families to be near their family at very difficult and challenging times. Being separated from Connor at this time didn’t bear thinking about.
We have been home almost three months now and our experiences have begun to sink in. We have settled back into normal home life at least for the time being. Connor was reunited with his older brother Jamie and they are both very proud big brothers to Sophie. Connor has recovered incredibly well from surgery, to the point that many could not tell what he had been through. He is due to have a scan at the end of January to find out what, if any treatment he will need in the future. At the moment, we are enjoying being back home with our family and friends who have supported us incredibly through our terrible ordeal. We will be forever grateful for Ronald McDonald House in Glasgow and will continue to raise money and awareness of the vital service they provide families at the most challenging times of their lives’. – As told by Amanda Conn (Conner’s Mum)
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