A mother whose twin babies ended up seriously ill in hospital at just three weeks of age is urging other parents to be aware of a condition that can be dangerous to some infants.
Claire Humphries, of Leckhampstead, is adding her voice to the More Than A Cold campaign, which launches this week and aims to raise awareness among parents of winter illnesses.
Primary school teacher Mrs Humphries, aged 35, knows all too well the emotional impact of having tiny babies in hospital, after her twins, Evie and Isaac, were both hospitalised with bronchiolitis.
Mrs Humphries and her husband, Shaun, aged 38, also have an older son, Elijah, aged four.
Bronchiolitis is a common lung infection affecting babies and young children. For most children, bronchiolitis is no more serious than a cold but for some, symptoms can be very severe and may need hospital treatment.
Born at 37 weeks by a planned C-section in August last year, both twins became ill in September at the age of three weeks.
Within the space of an hour, Isaac went from being a little unwell to turning blue and becoming barely responsive.
Both babies were taken to Milton Keynes Hospital, where A&E staff worked tirelessly to stabilise Isaac’s condition and Evie received the treatment she needed to ensure she did not end up as sick as her brother.
Once Isaac’s condition was stable enough, he was transferred to the peadiatric intensive care unit (PICU) at the John Radford Hospital in Oxford, while Evie remained at Milton Keynes for six days.
This meant the parents were torn between sick babies in different hospitals in different towns and Elijah, then aged three, who was still at home and desperately upset by his parents’ absence.
Thankfully, Mrs Humphries’ parents, Terry and Shirley Fennell, who are in their 70s, were able to step in and look after Elijah, and then Evie after she was discharged.
Mrs Humphries said: “They had been here visiting and it was fortunate they were still here, otherwise we’d have had nobody to help us.
“I couldn’t drive after the caesarian, so I was reliant on my dad and Shaun.
“It was difficult. We asked if Evie could be moved and they said it wasn’t possible.”
Mr and Mrs Humphries would try to spend a couple of hours with Evie in Milton Keynes, before going home for a couple of hours to be with Elijah, then head back to the John Radcliffe, where they were able to stay overnight in Ronald McDonald House.
Mrs Humphries said: “I don’t know how we’d have managed without having a room there.
“It was hard being away from Isaac but obviously it was hard being away from Evie and Elijah.
“Afterwards I thinnk Elijah was worried that every time we went anywhere, we weren’t going to come back.”
Isaac remained on ventilation at the PICU for eight days, then spent a further four days back at Milton Keynes Hospital.
He still has regular check-ups and is being referred to a respiratory specialist.
Although bronchiolitis is the most common cause of infant hospital admissions in the winter months in England, Mrs Humphries said she had never heard of the illness until she was in hospital with Isaac.
She said: “Had we been more aware, we could have probably done something sooner. If I’d have known the symptoms and we’d picked it up sooner, he may just have been admitted to the paediatric ward like Evie, whereas he was very poorly.”