Christopher was born 12 weeks early and initially had problems associated with his early appearance – immature lungs and jaundice. At two weeks, that all changed.
Christopher was diagnosed with an infection called necrotising enterocolitis, which ripped through his little body faster than any other recorded case. Christopher was rushed by ambulance to the specialist surgical unit at the RVI hospital in Newcastle. Surgeons operated on him for over six hours and removed the large section of his bowel, which had died due to the infection.
During the operation, Christopher’s life hung in the balance and, on a couple of occasions, he passed away. The skill of the surgeon, the anaesthetist and the whole surgical team brought our little boy back to us against all the odds.
Christopher was extremely poorly, and we were advised to have him baptised that evening. Unfortunately, some time during the operation, Christopher suffered from significant brain damage which left him with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. This wasn’t the fault of any person or anything that was done incorrectly during the operation, but a consequence of the catastrophic insult to his little body.
When we finally got Christopher home, we were inundated with visits from professionals. Those professionals carried out physio, health checks, chair assessments and many other things. We had had six or eight months of uncertainty and a mass amount of hospital visits and were emotionally and physically drained.
Through our community nurse, we were invited to come along to a place that was ‘like a nursery’, but different. A place that would asses Christopher’s needs and put him on the correct path for his education. A place where all the professionals had open access to Christopher and were able to carry out their assessments in one place. This place was The Childrens Centre.
On our very first visit, we were met by the then Head Teacher, Liz, and within minutes we were at ease, surrounded by people who filled us with hope and confidence. We had never heard of this place, this place that was full of these wonderful people, this place that was a safe haven for Christopher and that would become our rock. The staff were caring and professional and Christopher very quickly settled in, starting in a parent-and-child group and then going on to nursery.
Christopher loved his time at the nursery and could often be seen asleep in the corner of the light room, usually snuggled into a member of staff. The support that we received from everyone at the nursery was absolutely invaluable and the people we met – staff, professionals and other parents – were our rock.
We threw ourselves into helping out when we could and became members of the parent-led charity, The Children’s Centre Support Group, that had been started to raise funds for the nursery. In 1999, I became chairman of the charity and have been since then.
Sadly, Christopher’s health deteriorated and after a long, hard fight, he passed away aged six. We will never forget the support that the nursery gave us and the resources we had access to, resources that were funded by the charity.
We will never be able to pay back the debt we owe to the staff. The support they have given our family. The shoulder they gave us to cry on when needed. The care and love they gave to Christopher. But we know that every child who attends the nursery is given the best possible start to life by the caring professionals that make the nursery what it is. Along with the best equipment and resources we can offer through the charity, we are confident there is no better place.