The Mitchell Family Story

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Sophie was born with life threatening complications

Andrew and Sarah’s beautiful daughter Sophie was born with a double inlet single ventricle heart, pulmonary atresia, and transposition of the great arteries. Or in layman’s terms, Sophie was born with just half a heart. Having been born in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, it was a speedy transfer to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at the adjoining Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow.

Sophie had to undergo seven surgical procedures. Every step of the way she fought hard, the absolute definition of a ‘tough cookie’! Her tiny stature made the operations extremely difficult, but the specialist team worked exceptionally hard to help Sophie.

A place to temporarily call home

During this time Andrew and Sarah were gifted a room at Ronald McDonald House Glasgow, which was a safe haven where they could rest and recuperate, ready to support Sophie in her daily fight for life. The phone in their bedroom gave particular comfort, enabling them to contact the ward (or vice versa) at any time of day or night.

As a thank you to both the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow and Ronald McDonald House Glasgow, and as a distraction from the challenge facing them, Sophie’s incredible parents Andrew and Sarah started fundraising. When Sophie was just two days old, they messaged family and friends asking them to make donations to Ronald McDonald House Glasgow instead of sending material gifts such as cards, toys and baby clothes. Of course plentiful gifts arrived, but so did some seriously big-hearted donations.

5.55pm on Sunday 25th October 2015

A time and date the family will never forget. A day from being 6 weeks old. The day Sophie’s shunt blocked, and she had a cardiac arrest. Sophie passed away and the family couldn’t take her home.

The family continued to fundraise…

In total, Andrew and Sarah raised over £25,000!! This outstanding donation was shared between Ronald McDonald House Glasgow and the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit. The money received by the House enabled us to continue providing our service to other families facing the anguish of having a seriously ill child in hospital. Sarah explains “Ronald McDonald House was so much more than accommodation. It provided a home, support and friendship through inconceivably difficult times”.

An ECMO machine for PICU

The PICU ward at the Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow allocated the funds to support their Extra Corporeal Life Support (ECLS) service. ECLS provides temporary life support to children with respiratory or cardiac failure, while allowing the lungs to rest. Extra-corporeal life support uses extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). An ECMO machine is like a heart-lung bypass machine used for open heart surgery. ECMO continuously circulates blood from the patient through an artificial lung which adds oxygen to it before returning it to, and circulating it around, the patient’s body. Understandably this was a crucial part of Sophie’s treatment.

Sophie’s story continues

On the 25th of September 2015 Sophie went into theatre for one of her major operations and Andrew and Sarah picked conkers outside the House, collecting heart sized good luck charms. They later used these to plant a horse chestnut tree in Sophie’s memory. In 2016, their daughter Jessica was born – a beautiful little girl full of laughter, energy and health. Sophie’s tree grows from strength to strength, flourishing like her little sister – a tactile connection across the space between these two girls. Andrew updated us “We measured the horse chestnut tree this year [2020] on Sophie’s birthday… it is precisely the same size as Jessica (107cm)”!

Thank you so much to Andrew and Sarah for being courageous enough to share this truly difficult family story. Thank you, the reader, for having the courage to share in Sophie’s legacy. This story is written in her memory with heartfelt warmth from all of us here at the House. Please help us to help families in distressingly similar situations by donating today – thank you.

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