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‘Life does get better’: Peterhead mum reveals how The Archie Foundation eased stress of twins’ medical emergencies

Hari and Codi Warrander at Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital
Hari and Codi Warrander at Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital

A Peterhead mum has opened up about the support a north-east hospital charity gave to her and her twin sons after their births turned into a medical emergency.

After an extremely tough pregnancy, which included diagnosis of a condition causing severe nausea and vomiting, Holly Warrander went into labour at 35 weeks in August 2018.

She already knew that one of her twins had a medical issue – at 30 weeks, a scan had shown a blockage in his bowel that would require him to be taken to the neonatal ward after birth where he would undergo major surgery once he was stable enough.

Miss Warrander, 30, was given medication to hold her labour at bay, but at 36 weeks doctors at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital noticed one of the twins was in distress, and Codi and Hari were born by emergency c section on September 3 weighing 6lb 2oz and 5lb 14oz.

Hari, who had the bowel blockage, was immediately taken to the neonatal intensive care unit, while Codi stayed in his mum’s arms.

It was soon afterwards that Miss Warrander got a glimpse of support from The Archie Foundation: her first photo of Hari, a gift made possible by the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital (RACH) charity.

She said: “The picture meant the absolute world to me, I was so devastated about the twins not being together and with me. The photo brought me such comfort.”

Holly Warrander with her eldest son Levi and twins Hari and Codi.

A ‘home from home’

When he was just a day old, Hari underwent surgery at RACH. It was a success, and after being transferred back to the neonatal ward he started breathing on his own and becoming steadily stronger.

Four weeks after birth, Miss Warrander was finally able to take the twins home to Peterhead with her and eldest son Levi – but their hardship was not over.

At six weeks old, Hari was diagnosed with cow’s milk protein allergy, and after a period of time travelling back and forth to RACH, he was diagnosed as “failure to thrive” and required to be tube fed. He was six months old.

During hospital stays, Holly and Codi used Archie’s Parents Accommodation, which soon became a home from home.

Miss Warrander said: “Myself and the boys also got so much joy from the therapy dogs, clown doctors and Frozen characters during our stays and from toys gifted to the boys from The Archie Toy box.

“We were always so well looked after and I really can’t thank Archie enough for all they do for families on the wards.”

Clowns at RACH keep the babies entertained.

In particular, Miss Warrander praised the charity’s play leader Sarah Anderson, describing her as an “absolute angel”.

She said: “It’s not a job to her, it’s a passion. She brings so much joy and helped me through so many tough times. She makes life so much easier for parents and carers and enabled me to have a few minutes to myself everyday so that I could better cope with everything that was going on.”

Those moments of respite were crucial for the family as the months went on.

Archie ‘lift the weight’ from shoulders

In November 2019, Miss Warrander found Codi unresponsive in his cot. After a diagnosis of bronchitis at RACH, he spent a week on oxygen – and Hari became unwell in the same week.

“They were both on the medical ward in different rooms,” Miss Warrander said.

At points, she and her children were travelling to and from the hospital 10 times a week – an enormous cost, which was eased by emergency grants from Archie. The charity also provided her with meal vouchers.

She said: “It was such a weight lifted of my shoulders.

“I don’t think many people realise how much of a financial strain having babies and children who are ill is. Archie really helped to ease that burden.

Hari Warrander.

‘Life does get better’

She added: “Even with Hari’s diagnosis of intestinal malrotation with volvulus, meckels diverticulum, slow gastric emptying, chronic constipation and asthma he is such a happy boy and Codi is doing so well after everything they have both been through.

“I really can’t thank the staff in RACH and The Archie Foundation enough for their ongoing support. I can’t stress enough how much they have done for my family. I am forever grateful.”

As well as taking the opportunity to thank the hospital and charity, Miss Warrander said she wanted to tell her story so other people in similar situations know they are not alone.

She said: “When you’re going through it, it’s nice reading that somebody else has gone through it as well, and they’ve come out the other side.

“Life does get better, you’re not going to be stuck in hospital constantly for the rest of your life. It’s not going to be as much of a struggle as it is in that moment.”

Sarah Anderson, play leader for The Archie Foundation, enjoys supporting families at such a hard time.

Archie’s play team: More than toys and games

The Archie Foundation works hard to alleviate the financial and emotional worries of having a child in hospital in Aberdeen, Inverness and Dundee.

Play leader Sarah Anderson joined the team in December 2018 and has become one of the charity’s “biggest assets”.

Through play, she provides reassurance, company and comfort for patients of all ages – helping to keep their spirits up and worries down.

Ms Anderson also helps the doctors and nurses by helping to distract the children while they carry out procedures, and provides some company and reassurance to parents – becoming a familiar face for those like Miss Warrander, who are in and out of the hospital.

Cassy Gray also values Ms Anderson’s support when she is in hospital with daughter Megan, who has the rare neurological birth defect semilobar holoprosencephaly.

One-year-old Megan recently spent 10 weeks in RACH.

Her mum said: “I genuinely couldn’t have got through that time without Sarah. She made it so much more bearable and did so much with Megan. Every day we’d have a visit from her and it really brightened my day. Not only does she make sure Megan is doing well but she also checks in on me, and that means so much.”

The play helps distract youngsters from procedures, and their journey ahead. Here Masie and her mum are creating tie-dye tops with Sarah

Ms Anderson said she loved being able to support those coming in and out of the hospital at such difficult times.

“Everyday is different and that’s really what I love about my role,” she said. “The play team here at RACH are wonderful and it’s heartwarming to do a job which brings so much joy to so many. Being there to support children through play but also being a support for their parents or carers during really hard times is is a real honour.”

The play team is supported by The Archie Foundation, with Ms Anderson’s role fully funded by the charity – which relies on donations to run its services.

Chief executive Paula Cormack said: “We hear daily the difference the play team make and we are always keen to ensure our supporters understand that ‘play’ in a hospital environment is a highly skilled specialism that requires in-depth training. It is so much more than the word ‘play’ itself suggests.”

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