Christmas is always such a wonderful festival.
It has come to be the celebration of the family the world over. But for Roz and Ewan Christmases in recent years have been a roller coaster of despair, uncertainty but also enormous happiness and hope. Their first child, Millie was born in the days after Christmas 2016. Roz and her husband Ewan were so excited that year as they thought about the arrival of their first baby, a daughter, due the following spring. But things did not go to plan.
Millie's birth ended up being fraught with drama and anxiety. Millie was born by caesarean section only 26 weeks into term. Roz had been out shopping with Ewan when She began to bleed. She had developed pre-eclampsia, a potentially life threatening complication for both mother and baby. Millie, bless her, was born dangerously premature.
Weighing little more than a small Christmas pudding and delivered by emergency operation far from home, she went straight into intensive care at Homerton Hospital in Hackney. They live several miles away in West London.
So began a year of heart rending anxiety as tiny Millie developed a wave of health issues related to her premature arrival in the world. Bravely she fought to stay alive. She came off her ventilator just eight days after she was born. But a subsequent bleed on her brain gave her life changing challenges to add to her already fragile, precious life. Further complications caused the loss of part of her fingers on one hand.
Months of extraordinary hard work from her amazing hospital team and endless journeys across London by Roz and Ewan to visit her and will her through.
It paid off. Millie came back home 7th April - the very same day she was meant to have been born.
Back home she remained fragile but began to strengthen and grow. They celebrated her first Christmas that year with a sense of thanks, relief and hopefulness.
Millie had recovered from the brain bleed but it had left her, as we later discovered, with a disability called left sided hemiplegia, a type of cerebral palsy that impedes mobility. Life once again gave her more to cope with. It was a fresh blow.
Roz and Ewan knew they could not go it alone. They looked for support to help us and enable Millie to grow and develop against enormous odds. Finding that support was incredibly difficult. Until they heard about and approached the Dame Vera Lynn Children' Charity.
Roz says "The Charity changed all the our lives. They gave us real expertise and understanding. Millie began to get regular therapies and treatments funded and delivered by the Charity's expert specialist team. Millie found herself with other children who were also dealing with their own difficult life health stories. They proved an inspiration. Millie quickly began to respond to the care and showed real progress."
Keeping to Roz and Ewan's own special Christmas story their second child, Max was born in late November 2018 as the festivities once again began to sparkle around them. Max went to term and bounced into our lives as healthy baby boy. A brother to Millie. Their family was complete.
Two weeks after his birth he made the journey with Millie to the Charity's Christmas party in Sussex. Three years on and Millie continues to defy the tough cards she was dealt at birth. She is an amazingly strong little girl.
Today she is proudly at her mainstream local school and learning all the things her many friends are learning. She is deliciously curious with her ever expanding world and has taken a real shine to her iPad as many of today's techno kids seem to master with envious ease! Roz explains "It is more than we dared to hope for. Ewan and I are in awe with the amazing love, professionalism and dedication the Dame Vera Lynn Children's Charity gave Millie and us in those critical early years. She will always have challenges but now she can meet them with confidence and determination. She is our little star."
Of course, Dame Vera knew only too well the daily trauma for so many families caught up in the horrors and uncertainties of the Second World War. For them she was always a beacon of hope in dark times. Her Charity, celebrating its 20th Anniversary this December, continues her legacy in bringing joy, hope and strength to families from all over the UK. 2020 has seen so many families having to deal with the perils and fears of the pandemic. Family life for all of us has never been more vivid and vital.
It's so important to keep the Charity going and keep alive Dame Vera's hope that even more children like Millie can get the best possible start. If you are able, please will you consider making a Christmas Gift to help?
Glenys and the Team at Dame Vera Lynn Children's Charity
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