Paul Herbert, 41, and his family from Leicestershire will be taking part in Jessop’s Superheroes on the 9th June to show their appreciation to the Jessop Wing.

Paul’s wife Laura was diagnosed with breast cancer at her 20 week scan and underwent a lumpectomy during her pregnancy, but the decision was made to wait until after their daughter was born to begin chemotherapy.

Laura described how she felt when she heard the news: “When I was first diagnosed, I was more worried about my baby than I was about myself. It’s just your natural instinct, to protect the baby you’re carrying. I was terrified that I would be told I had to terminate the pregnancy – the whole pregnancy was all a bit of blur.”

To begin with the birth went smoothly and both Paul and Laura got to hold their baby girl, but suddenly 20 minutes later, everything changed.

Paul explained: “Elodie was rushed to the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at Leicester General and I just thought how unfair it was that we had to deal with Laura’s cancer and now had a seriously ill baby.

"I couldn’t get the words ‘intensive care’ out without crying."

“When we went to visit her in SCBU the doctors and nurses left us in no doubt that we may lose her. In the intervening 5 hours they had been battling to stabilise her enough to transfer her to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Paul and Laura were told a NICU cot had been found for Elodie at the Jessop Wing in Sheffield and the ambulance transfer team arrived to start preparing her for the 70 mile journey ahead.

Laura had to remain at home in hospital as she had developed post-partum preeclampsia and Paul got ready to travel to Sheffield the following day.

Laura said: “It was awful knowing that Elodie was going up to Sheffield and I had to stay in Leicester, but Paul was going with her and I knew he’d look after her for the both of us”

He said: “I first arrived at the hospital in Sheffield around 6:30am and I asked at the reception for neonatal intensive care, only I couldn’t get the words ‘intensive care’ out without crying. I was met by one of the nurses Nina who’d been looking after Elodie since she arrived.

”Nina explained how poorly Elodie was. As soon as I saw her in the incubator, hooked up to the ventilator and other machines sustaining her life I started crying uncontrollably.

“I found myself watching the numbers on Elodie’s monitors more than I was watching her in the incubator, clinging to life. Trying to guess which way the numbers would go and dreading them moving in the wrong direction.

“Elodie had suspected patent ductus arteriosus and her blood was flowing back into her lungs which caused her to have a pulmonary haemorrhage. All I really understood at the time was that she had problems with her lungs and blood pressure.

“To be honest, I never fully engaged with the concept of Elodie not making it. Paul definitely did, but I couldn’t bring myself to."

“We were fortunate enough to have both sets of our parents to support us during this period. My mum was mainly looking after our son, Joseph, which meant Laura’s parents could look after her, and I could focus most of my energy on Elodie. I knew I had to focus on Elodie because I was the only person who could.”

Laura added: “To be honest, I never fully engaged with the concept of Elodie not making it. Paul definitely did, but I couldn’t bring myself to, so I just never believed it might happen. It’s worse looking back now that she’s nearly three, a proper person in her own right and imagining not having her around.”

Just a week after Laura had given birth she began her chemotherapy.

Paul said: “After Laura was discharged from hospital and her blood pressure had stabilised, she came up for visits most days along with various combinations of grandparents and sometimes our son Joseph. This period coincided with Laura’s first session of chemotherapy so there were days when she couldn’t visit. But it was always a relief when Laura arrived, as not only was I pleased to see her, but it seemed that the huge weight of responsibility I felt for Elodie was being shared for a few hours.”

Laura later underwent two further operations after it was identified she was carrying the BRCA2 mutation which presents a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer. She had both her ovaries removed along with a double mastectomy

Thankfully Elodie soon came of the ventilator and was able to return to Leicester hospital where she stayed for a further four days before returning home.

“The doctors and nurses saved my daughter’s life, they took care of her when I couldn’t and they were unbelievably kind to us.” 

Paul said: “Laura is likely to have some further surgery this year, and is on medication as part of her ongoing treatment, but is otherwise OK. Since I first met her 18 years ago, her dream was to become a published author. In the last year, she has had two novels published, with a third planned for later this year. I think it’s fair to say that the events of 2016 gave her the push she needed to make that happen.

“Having Elodie home brought so much happiness but also a lot of nerves, I was quite scared just in case anything went wrong. The whole experience of having a seriously ill baby has definitely changed me, and made me more wary than I already was. I try as best I can to not let it affect my parenting, I know I can’t wrap my kids in cotton wool but I find it hard not to worry about one of them getting hurt or failing ill.”

“The staff at the Jessop Wing not only saved Elodie’s life, but looked after me whilst I was there with her."

Laura added: We were so relieved to take her home but so terrified at the same time/ In hospital there had been so many people looking after her and now it was all down to us. I’m thankful we weren’t first-time parents so we knew what we were going to a certain extent. We took a photo of her in a huge armchair we have, and she looked so small like a doll. Now we take a photo of her on that same chair on her birthday every year.

“The doctors and nurses saved my daughter’s life, they took care of her when I couldn’t and they were unbelievably kind to us.” 

Paul said: “Elodie is now a normal, happy, wilful two-year-old and I want to say how wonderful all the doctors and nurses were who looked after her and got her to where she is today.

“The staff at the Jessop Wing not only saved Elodie’s life, but looked after me whilst I was there with her.

“There is nothing I can say to adequately explain my feelings and convey my gratitude for what they have done for us. It takes a special kind of person to do the job they do, and I will always be thankful for them and the NHS. As Joseph and Elodie get a little older, I want them to start to understand how much we owe the doctors and nurses that saved Elodie’s life and the superheroes walk will be a great place to start.”

Jessops Superheroes sponsored by Dutton Recruitment, is a 2.5k family walk which takes place on Sunday 9 June 2019 at Graves Part at 10:30am. There is a £15 minimum sponsorship for all who take part. All who take part will be given a free superhero bib or cape.