When baby Leo held on to his mummy’s hand for the first time it was a precious moment that their family had only dared to dream of.
Leo’s mum Ellie Wright contracted Covid-19 when she was 30 weeks pregnant and couldn’t start life-saving treatment until her baby had been delivered. Leo was born by emergency caesarean, 10 weeks premature at 3.07pm on 12 January, and needed to be on a ventilator in Walsall Manor Hospital’s Neonatal Unit.
Meanwhile 20-year-old Ellie, of Beechdale, was fighting the virus and pneumonia and was seriously ill in the hospital’s Critical Care Unit.
Grandmother Michelle Stankevitch explained: “This has been terrible for us because Leo is Ellie’s first baby and my first grandchild and it should be a happy time to celebrate. But we have been so worried about them both – especially Ellie because she has been so ill. She had to have Leo so that she could have treatment and she was on a cocktail of drugs and put to sleep for three weeks.”
Michelle remembers being contacted when Ellie’s condition took a turn for the worse.
“I was able to come and see her because things were so bad but I refused to say goodbye to her and just kept saying “you need to fight.” I remember telling her I didn’t want to arrange a funeral for one of my own children. There was no way I could think of this being the end because she needed to be here for the baby.”
Then last week baby Leo was brought up to the Critical Care Unit in his incubator to meet his mum for the very first time. Ellie was so weak she had been unable to lift her arms but she managed to reach out and hold her baby’s hand.
“Leo’s dad Christian had been seeing him but because of the exceptional circumstances the unit also let me come and see Leo and I was there when they took him up to critical care,” said Michelle. “ The nurses and doctors lined up as his incubator came through and I remember one of the doctors showing me his fingers crossed and I know he was smiling under the mask. It was really emotional for us all.”
Now the family is hoping Ellie, who works in B&Q, can move on to a ward, out of critical care, in the next couple of weeks and eventually back home when she is able to walk a few steps. Michelle knows she’ll want one of her favourite pork curries cooked and can’t wait.
She is looking after Leo until his mum comes home and says he’s “fantastic.”
“When Ellie was little I used to sing You are My Sunshine using her name and I am doing the same now with Leo. He really looks at me when I sing it to him and I’m not sure whether he really likes it or just wonders what the heck his nan is playing at! I can’t wait till he’s reunited with his mum.”
Michelle also praised Walsall Healthcare staff.
She added: “They are not people – they are angels. They have looked after Leo and Ellie so well at such a bad time with Covid going on. In Critical Care they’ve done Ellie’s hair and painted her nails; those little touches mean a lot when you can’t be there.”
Michelle, who also set up a Facebook post #TeamEllie, said she hoped her daughter’s story would remind people how careful they still need to be to minimise the risk of the virus.
“Our family has done everything by the rules and this has still happened to us. There are some who aren’t taking this seriously and they really need to.”
Critical Care ward Manager Rachael Brett said staff were proud to be part of Ellie’s special moment with Leo.
“To be able to see her son when she felt so weak did Ellie the world of good. The power of this can’t be underestimated.”