Jessica's first Christmas
Christmas five years ago, we could barely focus on the festive season.
All around us it seemed everyone was excited about Christmas, but for us there was a huge obstacle in its way. Our three-month-old daughter, Jessica, was about to undergo her second open heart surgery.
Jessica has a rare, potentially fatal heart condition which was discovered during a scan while I was pregnant. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) which affects one baby in 5,000.
After heart surgery
In HLHS, the left side of the heart is much smaller than usual, and cannot pump enough blood to the body. Without treatment, babies quickly become seriously ill.
Sadly, even with medical advances, some babies die and others have ongoing health problems.
While those around us were doing their Christmas shopping, we were praying in a hospital chapel, pacing the floor – trying to fill those endless hours whilst our baby was in theatre. Then sitting beside a cot on the paediatric intensive care unit as Jessica recovered from surgery.
When I woke up on Christmas morning, I found a stocking next to Jessica’s cot with a few small gifts from Father Christmas. We spent most of Christmas Day by Jessica’s cot and she gave us the best gift ever that morning – the first smile since her surgery.
Being in hospital was not where I’d have ever chosen to spend our first Christmas as a family, surrounded by machines, tubes and wires, but surprisingly the memory of it is still a beautiful one.
Jessica’s first radical surgery was performed when she was in my tummy, with her first open heart surgery when she was just eight hours old.
After further surgery when Jessica was one week old, we were finally allowed home after a month, only to return for her third operation when she was just three months old and another at six months.
Each time, Jessica’s recovery was fraught with worry. She suffered wound infections and other complications, had to be tube fed, and needed many different medicines.
Jessica will need further surgery to make her heart as strong as possible in the future.
Jessica’s future well-being is difficult to predict –
but research to improve treatment can bring hope.
That’s why we’re supporting Action’s Jessica Appeal, to help fund more vital research for children and babies.