Baby Charlie with mum Maria and dad Will. Picture by Alex Lentati
The parents of a newborn baby whose life was “on a knife edge” when he turned blue four hours after birth today told how he was saved by specialist care at a London hospital.
Doctors at the Evelina London children’s hospital found that Charles Hanson was suffering from a rare condition that closed a valve in his heart, restricting it from pumping oxygenated blood around his body.
Today his parents Maria Teresa Creasey and Will Hanson (above) told of his survival as they welcomed the £3m expansion of the Evelina’s neonatal unit that will enable it to care for more than 1,000 critically ill babies a year and help to tackle a national shortage of neonatal cots.
Charles, who was given the middle name Geraint after one of the doctors who helped save him, Dr Geraint Lee, was born next door at St Thomas’s hospital on October 18.
He was placed on life support and gradually progressed through the neonatal unit’s three levels of care – high dependency, intensive care and special care. Last night he was well enough to go home to Kennington.
Ms Creasey, an actor who has appeared in the films Spooks: The Greater Good and The Program, said: “He was on a knife-edge for 10 days.”
She said his induced delivery, almost two weeks after her due date, hit a “sweet spot”. She said: “I think maybe he wouldn’t be here if the timing hadn’t been so perfect. If he had been born a little bit later he might have been stillborn.
“In the span of four hours we went from the best moment of our life to the scariest moment of our life. He was immediately put on life support. The specialist care is pretty amazing.”
Dr Tim Watts, clincial lead for the neonatal unit, said it had doubled its high-dependency cots from six to 12, and increased intensive care cots from 16 to 22. The unit now has beds or cots for 54 babies.
He said Evelina London was now “significantly more likely” to be able to care for life-endangered babies than a year ago, and not undergo the “frustration” of having to turn some away due to a lack of space. The unit has been running at 95-100 per cent occupancy.
In 2002, it had 34 cots and treated 524 babies. “This year we will admit over 1,000 babies for the first time,” Dr Watts said.
The unit was officialy opened by James Melville-Ross, above with wife Georgie, whose twins, Thomas and Alice, were cared for at Evelina London’s NNU after being born at 24 weeks.
He said: “The Neonatal Unit enabled us to realise the gift of parenthood. It’s a huge honour to be part of today’s celebrations and to get the opportunity to say thank you to the NNU and its incredible people.
“Without the amazing staff here, our story would have only been one page, instead of chapters full to the brim with new experiences and laughter every single day. We will never, ever forget what they have given us, the joy that we have as a family.
“But we are aware that we are the lucky ones. Sometimes there just aren’t enough cots to go round. That’s why today’s increase in critical care, intensive care and isolation cots is so important.”
Click here to read James’s full speech and to read an Evening Standard feature about his family
Sir Hugh Taylor, chairman of Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS trust, which runs Evelina, said: “Nationally, there is a shortage of critical care beds for babies. I know we won’t have any difficulty in filling the extra beds we put in.
“This is a time of great difficulty for the NHS nationally. We are committed to growing and expanding our services so we can offer the best possible care to the biggest number, in this case babies, and to help people at an absolutely critical time in their lives, moments of sometimes darkness and of great joy as well.”
He added: “This isn’t about beds. This is about human life.”
*An edited version of this article appears in today’s Evening Standard.