Harrison’s Story

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When Catherine and David MacLean watched their son Harrison drift off to sleep they could do nothing but hope for the best.

Harrison MacLean was born at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, he looked perfectly normal but had been diagnosed with truncus arteriosis – a condition where some of the main blood vessels don’t separate in the womb resulting in less oxygen circulating the body. He needed open heart surgery.

“If left untreated, he would certainly die,” Harrisons Mum, Catherine said.

“So, at three weeks old, with decreasing oxygen levels as each day went by, we Harrison in the hands of the anaesthetists at 9am,” Catherine recalled.

“We had the long wait to hear any news when we finally got a phone call at 6pm. He was just being transferred round to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) – all had gone well. The surgery was performed by Professor Mark Danton, a genius in his field and one of the top heart surgeons in the country.

“After spending 31 days in hospital, including six days on a ventilator in PICU, we were finally discharged and got to make the journey back home to Inverness.”

It was a happy ending following a tricky pregnancy. “It just wasn’t a nice pregnancy at all, knowing what was coming but then everything being so uncertain as well – the pregnancy was not what it’s supposed to be like,” said Catherine (27), who is a staff nurse in medical high dependency at Raigmore Hospital.

“At my 20-week scan, the midwife noticed something wasn’t right and we were sent straight down to the QEUH where we were told our baby had a severe heart defect and would need life-saving surgery but there was still a possibility that he may still not survive.

“Fast forward to September, I was induced down in Glasgow and four days later – on our first wedding anniversary – along came Harrison. He was soon rushed to the ICU and then to surgery. I was very ill too because I lost a lot of blood.”

David and Catherine had to travel down to Glasgow frequently during their pregnancy for appointments.

“We would sit and just cry our eyes out in the car back up to Inverness after every appointment,” David said.

Catherine and David stayed at the House while Harrison was in hospital…

“It’s a five-minute walk from the hospital and gave us somewhere to stay, free of charge, with a lounge area, library, kitchen and laundry facilities,” Catherine said. “They put on activities for children and adults staying there such as movie nights and massages to take your mind off being stuck in a hospital.

“It was the biggest comfort knowing that if anything with Harrison had gone wrong, David knew he could get there in five minutes.”

“The charity were a godsend. I don’t know, if it wasn’t for them, where we would be.”

David said: “We will probably need the Ronald McDonald House again when his next surgery happens, perhaps in a few years – hopefully not for a while.

“This is why I chose to raise what I could for them – it’s a great place for people like us, especially from the Highlands, that more people should know about.

“We didn’t have to worry about finding money for a hotel. Its facilities meant we were eating properly which made it feel as if it was a home away from home.

“The receptionists were so kind and friendly and were a real emotional support for us. When they’d let us, after his surgery, we took Harrison over the road to our room in the Ronald McDonald House. We could lie on the bed and have our own time with him, our extended family could come and visit there whereas the hospital still had restrictions limited to one visitor.”

Now, Harrison is almost one and thriving…

“We are loving being home and being able to spend time as a family. We still have regular check-ups for him, but these are getting fewer as his health progresses and they are in Inverness now – so this saves us travelling again.”

“His scar has beautifully healed now, and he’s coming on leaps and bounds – it really couldn’t have gone any better!” said Catherine.

David took on the 10k in Edinburgh earlier this year raising almost £2000 for the House – we can’t thank him enough for taking on this challenge and helping us accommodate our families!

You can make a difference to families with children in hospital

Ronald McDonald House Glasgow is an independent charity. As we are a self-funded House, it is our wonderful supporters who do ensure our doors can remain open to support families like Harrison’s. It costs £85 per day to fully cover the cost for a family to stay at the House. If you would consider making a donation to support the families that the House supports, you can do so here .

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