New mum whose baby started suffocating 2 hours after she was born shares how ‘magical’ London hospice has helped

A new mum has shared her experience of what happened two hours after her baby was born.

Isabella, now eight months old, was left with Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy and neurological difficulties after she was starved of oxygen during birth.

The weeks and months that ensued were very tough for the family as it was all happening during the height of the Covid pandemic, in January and February this year when the country was in lockdown.

Joanna, Isabella’s mum, said: “It was a standard pregnancy. As far as we know nothing was wrong.

“Being unable to swallow is often a sign of brain damage. But swallowing is not checked immediately after birth. Isabella was born and she cried and she was a good size.

“But two hours later she started suffocating.”

After that, Isabella was moved to intensive care at University College Hospital, and Joanna explained the days after that were “intense” and “tough”.

Baby Isabella had to stay in the hospital for eight weeks after she was born because she was so unwell. Due to Covid restrictions, only one parent was allowed to go in to be with her.

Joanna explained that Isabella’s father had to go back to work after his parental leave was over and so she would go to the hospital to be with her baby.

“It was very isolating,” Joanna said. “And so intense. It was difficult to know what was happening. I had to be the one to ask all the questions and remember all the answers. I wasn’t allowed anyone there to help me.”

Even now, due to Covid, Joanna says her and her partner had to fight to both be allowed in to an appointment at Great Ormond Street hospital the other day to find out whether Isabella would be able to see.

“We fully appreciated why rules were in place but I don’t think much thought was given for parents of really sick children,” Joanna explained.

But as Joanna spoke to My London you could tell how thankful and grateful she is for all the support her family have received since Isabella was diagnosed.

From the physio to the different therapies Isabella does each week, Joanna said she’s been “surprised at just how much help there is out there” and the wonderful community she has found online of people going through a similar experience.

But somewhere that has a special place in Joanna’s heart is the Noah’s Ark hospice in Barnet.

“When I first heard the word hospice, I felt very scared,” Joanna said openly, talking about how the connotations around the word hospice made her feel.

But while Noah’s Ark does provide end-of-life care, it does so much more than that too, also supporting very ill children and their families and providing therapy for children like Isabella, as Joanna explains.

It’s been an incredible and rare chance for both of Isabella’s parents to come together and enjoy some “fun” with their baby, as normally only one parent can take her in to sessions.

“It’s so important to us because I can see the amazing difference music therapy has made,” Joanna said.

The new mum added that the music therapy Isabella gets at Noah’s Ark is “magical”.

“It makes us feel more optimistic about the future.”

Isabella struggles to play with everyday toys because of her vision impairment and cerebral palsy.

But Joanna describes the heartwarming moment her daughter started to recognise a guitar after coming to the classes a few times and how she “put her hand out to play it”.

Noah’s Ark’s No Child Left Behind campaign is aiming to raise an ambitious two million pounds in 36 hours. You can still donate to the fundraiser here until 10pm tonight (October 4).

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