Bonded by Mother's Day love
There are hundreds of mothers across the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, each of whom have their own stories in caring for sick children.
They work as nurses, doctors, allied health professionals and non-clinical staff. They are the incredible mums with children on our wards. They are the volunteers who dedicate their time to helping those in need.
Amanda and Fran are two of these mothers, one with a child in intensive care and the other who works just down the corridor from her daughter.
The Network wishes Amanda and Fran, all the incredible mothers, grandmothers, and mother figures a very happy Mother’s Day.
Amanda and Kayden
The first time Amanda held her one-month old son Kayden for the first time, she thought it would be the last.
Amanda’s journey through her second pregnancy has been the most challenging period of her of her life. Her twins, Kayden and Aria, were born premature at 26 weeks gestation after her waters broke early at just 13 weeks with her son.
Due to having no amniotic fluid (the liquid that surrounds the foetus during pregnancy), Kayden’s lungs didn’t develop properly and he has been ventilated since birth. He has little lungs and has been diagnosed with chronic lung disease and pulmonary hypertension, a condition caused when the pressure in the arteries leading to the lungs is too high.
Fortunately, his twin sister, Aria, didn’t experience the same complications, however, she still needed to be closely monitored in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Royal Hospital for Women.
The twins spent 100 days in NICU and on that milestone, Aria was able to go home. For Kayden though, the milestone marked the day he was transferred to the children’s intensive care unit at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, where he has stayed for a further 100 days, and counting.
“Having a child in intensive care is really ‘intensive,’” Amanda said.
“Due to the tracheostomy, I can’t hear Kayden cry or make sounds. I can’t give him bottles or proper baths. I can’t get anything in his tracheostomy or get him sick, so I’m constantly worried. It’s what hurts the most while I’m at home with my girls, where he should be.
You just want your family together and I feel a part of me is missing when I go home, but we know he is in the best place at the moment.”
Amanda and her husband, Luke, have nearly lost Kayden twice but each time, he has pulled through and shown just how strong he is. This strength has helped Amanda too.
“There are so many emotions. It is so hard to see your baby with so many things attached to them. I used to be scared of holding my baby, to play with him, or even change his nappy!
“But I think he just needs me, and I have to face my fears. I am now picking him up, playing with him, and even do tummy time! At seven months old, he was able to go outside for the first time and he absolutely loved it.
"It’s those little moments and seeing him smile that helps keep me going.”
Kayden still has a long road to go at the Hospital and will need around the clock care when he comes home but his journey has brought a new perspective to motherhood for Amanda and seeing all three of her children’s smiles melts her heart every time.
“It’s definitely much harder this time round, it’s something totally different. But that is Kayden and Aria’s journey and I’m honestly so proud of them, they are so brave and strong,” Amanda said.
Seeing my twins together, trying to hold hands, and how they try to steal each other’s dummies, I can’t wait to watch their bond grow more.
“My toddler has only met her brother once and calls him Boo Boo and again, I can’t wait to see them bond. When he comes home it’s going to be a madhouse, with two dogs as well, but everything will be worth it to have our family together.”
On Mother’s Day, Amanda’s selflessness shines through. Despite the challenges the last seven months have thrown at her and her family, she sees it as a way to honour the mothers around her.
“We have great family support when we need it. I have two great mothers in my mother and mother-in-law so I don’t see Mother’s Day as my day, but a way to honour and thank them,” Amanda said.
“It’s great to appreciate what mothers do because they do so much. Mothers will do anything for their children, as with fathers of course, and I’m so proud to be the mother of Kayden.”
Fran and Mel
Ward Clerk Fran clearly remembers the conversation with her daughter Mel about nursing, but little did she know she would one day be working alongside her.
It was in the most difficult time of their lives when John, their husband and father, was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.
Seeing first-hand the incredible work of the dedicated nurses and treatment teams, Mel began to contemplate leaving the corporate world to give back to the community. She decided to apply and successfully secured a scholarship for nursing – a definite sign of what was meant to be.
“I do believe this is her true calling,” Fran said.
“She was always so impressed and humbled, as we all were, with the care and dedication that was shown not only to her father in this time but to the whole family. They were wonderful.
“Mel would often have conversations with them and asked about what made them chose their career paths, and soon after announced she wanted to change her own. I am so very proud of Mel and know her father would have been also in her decision to become a nurse.”
Fran is a Clinical Support Administrator in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit and Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, which has been her second home for almost 25 years.
Now when she walks along Ward Street on level three, she sometimes crosses paths with Mel who works just down the corridor as a Registered Nurse in Variety Ward.
There isn't a day they don’t talk and when they both have a shift, Mel and Fran share meals and their rides to work together. Sometimes Mel even stops by to surprise her mum with little visits and a sweet treat or two to help get her through the rest of her shift.
Colleagues are often surprised at their similarities, but most importantly, they both share a passion for making a difference to those in need.
"I often have co-workers stop me to say, 'your Fran's daughter!' So, I guess my mum is a VIP " Mel said.
"My mum inspires me to be a better individual in both my personal and work life. She is my biggest supporter, she supported me in pursuing my career change after we lost Dad from cancer.
She has taught me to take pride in all that I do - to be the wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend and nurse that goes above and beyond. When it's my time to be a mum, I can only hope to as a great of mum like mine."
Fran is one of the many staff who are spending Mother’s Day this year working to care for the sick children and their families across SCHN. For her, Mother’s Day is a time to not only celebrate her role as a mum but also those around her, particularly the patients and families on her wards.
“Being a mum and having those strong feelings about children and family, it has certainly shaped my understanding of what they go through when their children and babies are in the intensive care units. I have so much more empathy, especially since going through the process of having a loved one in hospital and the impact it has had on me and my family,” Fran said.
“Mother’s Day is very special to me not just for my own celebration of being a mother to my two beautiful girls, but also honouring my mother, grandmothers, aunts, and even now my daughter – who is a mother to my granddaughter Olivia. It is also a celebration of all the mother-like figures who I have been blessed to have in my life and shaped the mother I have become.
To experience ‘unconditional love’ is truly the best thing about being a mum. It is the best feeling in the world.”
When Fran heads home after her Mother’s Day shift, a cooked meal made with love will be awaiting her from her two daughters in celebration for the wonderful mum she is.
“Love you, mum!”