Baby Lennon’s arrival into the world was far from ordinary. Born unexpectedly via caesarean section at just 34 weeks, his parents, Lacey and Chris, had no idea what challenges lay ahead. Within 24 hours of his birth, Lennon was in dire need of specialised care, and found himself at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH).
Over the next week, Lacey and Chris received one distressing diagnosis after another. Lennon was born with Pierre Robin sequence, a condition in which a small lower jaw and a blocked airway posed a serious threat to his survival.
To help him breathe, the skilled surgeons at the RCH performed a tracheostomy, a delicate procedure that involved inserting a plastic tube into Lennon’s tiny windpipe through an incision in his throat.
But there was more. In addition to an extra finger and ears that weren’t correctly formed, Lennon also had some hearing loss. His spine and ribs were abnormal, and he had horseshoe kidneys, a cleft palate, and an extra artery in his heart.
Lacey and Chris were overwhelmed, unsure of where to begin to help their precious son.
“It was hard because we weren’t sure what the worst thing was. Is it his heart, is it his airway, his ears? But the medical staff were obviously very much focused on getting him breathing,” Lacey recalls.
Lennon spent his first three and a half months in the hospital undergoing tests, scans, and x-rays.
Chris recalls, “The hospital saved Lennon’s life multiple times. We watched him stop breathing and turn blue. Thankfully the nurses brought him back. One of them even injured herself in the process.
“We told ourselves constantly through this whole situation, that if we weren’t in Melbourne, if we weren’t at the RCH, our son would be dead. They’re giving him a future.”
Despite the challenges, Chris and Lacey enthusiastically embraced a special model of care at the hospital called COCOON, which stands for ‘Circle of Care Optimising Outcomes for Newborns’.
This model of care empowers parents like Lacey and Chris with the skills to look after their baby as much as possible. Helping to care for their baby in hospital not only improves the health outcomes for the baby, but it also boosts the wellbeing of the family and helps build the precious bond between parent and child.
Polly St John, a COCOON Nurse Coordinator in the NICU, remembers, “It started with small things like changing his nappy and cleaning his eyes and mouth. Lacey and Chris kept Lennon comfortable and provided him with a gentle touch and calmed him with their voices.”
The experienced and dedicated clinical team looking after Lennon also includes his plastic surgeon Dr Daniel Wilks, a specialist children’s hand surgeon.
Daniel explains, “One of the key things about caring for children like Lennon is to coordinate all that care because he’s likely to need several operations through his very young years.”
Many of the surgeries Lennon will have will be carried out by Daniel and the team in the plastic surgery department.
Daniel says, “A lot of the things that we do are about rebuilding. Rebuilding parts of the body after trauma or rebuilding parts of the body due to the consequences of development.”
Chris and Lacey are grateful their precious son is in the care of the RCH, and they are also grateful for the support of donors, who make so many things possible.
“I don’t think donors know how much their donations are appreciated. If there weren’t people donating, then so many people wouldn’t have their babies and have the opportunity to see them thrive and live their best life. It’s the most amazing thing anyone can do,” Lacey said.
Knowing the clinical staff at the RCH will be with them every step of the way, providing their precious boy with the world class care and support they need for the long journey ahead, gives Chris and Lacey hope for a bright future for Lennon.