A grieving couple whose baby son died when he was just 32 days old have been bringing a smile to other children in his memory by dropping off some Easter treats to Walsall Manor Hospital.
For Katrina Williams and Ashley Melia, Good Friday’s visit was the first time they had returned to the hospital since losing Barney. But they were determined to do their son proud and delivered a host of Easter eggs and craft sets for young patients on the Children’s Ward which were gratefully received by Play Specialist Emma Lester and Fundraising Manager Georgie Westley.
Katrina, aged 23, explained that when she was carrying Barney, her first baby, it was feared he had a heart problem.
“We were referred to Birmingham Women’s Hospital and it was there we found out that he had DiGeorge Syndrome, Pulmonary Atresia, VSD and MAPCA.”
Pulmonary Atresia is a condition where the valve that controls the blood flow from the heart to the lungs doesn’t form at all. VSD is a condition which causes a hole in the lower part of the heart and MAPCA are arteries that develop to supply blood where native pulmonary circulation is underdeveloped.
The couple said ‘Obviously, this was a massive shock to us. We were asked if we wished to continue with the pregnancy or consider a medical termination but we were both absolutely adamant that we wanted to continue. He was our baby, we loved him and we wanted to fight for him.”
Katrina had to be induced at 39 weeks and Barney was born weighing 7 pounds and 1 ounce on 19 September last year. He had to spend eight days in intensive care and was tube fed before being transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital where he spent a further 10 days.
At that time Ashley, 24, who works in Logistics, and Katrina, a Walsall Council Funding Project Officer, were used to their baby’s oxygen saturation levels sometimes becoming low because of his heart problems and the fact that his colouring was also a little blue but they were thrilled when they were told they could take him home to Willenhall.
“He’d had a few reflux problems when we got home but we’d got him on a cow’s milk alternative and the idea was that if he could grow a little this would make him a little stronger for future surgery that we knew would lie ahead because he also had a hole in his heart,” said Katrina.
“We were thrilled to have him home but didn’t really relax as we were so mindful of his health issues. Two weeks after coming home we were a little concerned as he was struggling to get his breath a bit more than usual and started deteriorating, our instincts just told us this wouldn’t pass so after speaking with Birmingham Childrens Hospital we bought him to A&E at Walsall where we discovered he had bronchiolitis. The plan was he’d have antibiotics and be monitored at Walsall but as he started to struggle more, plans were being made to transfer him to another hospital with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “
Little Barney’s condition deteriorated, however, and he had to be put on a ventilator.
“We were so used to him having setbacks and somehow rallying again but this time he was unable to breathe on his own, not even one breath,” said Katrina. A team carried out CPR on him but were unable to save him and he died on 21 October.”
The couple believe that staff did all they could to save Barney and say the Walsall team’s obvious sadness and distress helped them to realise they had treated Barney as if he was their own baby.
“That means a lot to us as we try to move forward,” said Katrina. “Doctors stayed over their shift to support us, staff cuddled us and Barney together and they arranged for us to be able to have his footprints taken and a lock of his hair. We were all able to spend time with him and say our goodbyes and our families were able to be with him too.
“We were never rushed and we could tell from their faces that they were so sorry that we’d lost him. Even now, nothing is too much trouble for them. If I ring up with questions about what happened they have always got time for us and while this wasn’t the ending any of us wanted they did all they could to support us through it. We will always be grateful.”
They decided to bring in Easter goodies for other patients as Barney’s death has made them realise how precious life is.
“Some children might not have been receiving an Easter egg this year and some children might not be with parents in the fortunate position we’re in, both working. We want Barney to be looking down on us and being proud of us which is why we want to help others in his memory,” said Katrina.
Georgie Westley, Fundraising Manager said: “Thank you so much to Katrina and Ashley for thinking of others at such a difficult time. Their son Barney has a very special mummy and daddy.”