Ralph's Backstory

In loving memory of
Ralph Peter George Bucknall
27.08.21 - 26.09.21
On 27th August 2021 we were 25 weeks and 1 day pregnant with our baby boy. Me (mum, Laura) being ultra organised had already bought pretty much everything we’d need and we were counting down the days to our due date, 9th December 2021.

I finished work on the Friday and said to Lee (dad) that I felt a bit “funny”. Our cats were booked into the vets for a check up so we loaded them into the car and as we drove I started to feel a bit sick and desperate for a wee. As we arrived I went in for a wee but didn’t really need to go and then came out and felt really hot. I said to Lee let’s cancel the appointment and come back another day - which was really unlike me.

As we got home I called the maternity unit at Frimley and they said to come in and get strapped up to the machine but it didn’t sound like anything to worry about. In the car on the way to Frimley I started to have contractions and was pouring with sweat. I didn’t tell Lee about the contractions because I didn’t want to panic him and also I didn’t want to believe it myself.

As we arrived on the labour ward my waters broke. We were rushed into a delivery room and all of a sudden it was full of midwives, doctors and consultants. I was being hooked up to different machines, antibiotics and steroid injections all whilst being told we were in labour, and there wasn’t anything we could do to stop it. Lee called my mum and told her to come straight away. I weirdly managed to stay calm, the consultant explained everything and all we were worried about was our baby arriving safely.

Mum arrived shortly after then my contractions had stopped so we all sat and talked whilst the midwife popped in and out to check on us and my amazing best friend sat camped outside the labour ward but wasn’t allowed in. Just after 10pm Ralph Peter George Bucknall arrived very quickly into the world weighing 810g (around 1lbs 7ozs). He was put straight on me but only for a couple of seconds before the room filled up again and Ralph was taken away to be resuscitated and placed into a plastic bag for warmth. We had another very quick cuddle shortly after and then he was taken straight down to the NICU.

Frimley only tend to take babies over 28 weeks gestation so a few hours later we were transferred to St. Peter’s NICU in Chertsey. Ralph was stable and we sat around his incubator all day in total disbelief and a bubble of love. We were allowed to stay in 1 of the family rooms so we went off to sleep that night and were woken around 1am with a knock on the door. The nurse explained Ralph wasn’t doing very well and that we should come back in. We sat and watched as the doctors and consultants saved Ralph’s life. He’d had a severe brain bleed.

After a rollercoaster first week Ralph seemed to pick up and we were allowed our first proper cuddles. It was hands down the most perfect moments of our lives. Over the next few days we got to take it in turns and he was so happy on our chests. He kept warm and all of his stats were stable. He loved mummy and daddy cuddles. There were still plenty of ups and downs, he had sepsis and had another slight brain bleed. Also we were all concerned that he hadn’t pooed yet and we kept having to stop his milk feeds because his tummy was raised.

Just before Ralph was 2 weeks old we were told we couldn’t stay in the family room any longer so had to go home. Leaving the hospital without your baby is excruciating and we were inconsolable. After a few nights at home we were starting to get into a routine and I was expressing so we would call through the night to check how he was. On Sunday 12th September around 4am we called and were told Ralph was not doing very well. The doctors suspected he had NEC (necrotising enterocolitis) and said we should come in as we’d likely need to be transferred to St. George’s NICU unit in London as they had a surgical team who specialised in NEC. NEC is a very serious bowel disease, fairly common in babies under 1500g birth weight.

Ralph and I went in the ambulance and Lee followed in the car, passing each other on the motorway. As we arrived at St. George’s Ralph was really really poorly. Lee and I watched again for the 2nd time as the nurses, doctors and consultants fought to save our baby. We stayed in the hospital the whole time as we refused to go home with it being at least an hour if not more journey. We were moved around the hospital and into a local hotel but we didn’t care as long as we were as near to Ralph as we could be.

The surgeons at St. George’s checked on Ralph every day and they didn’t believe he was showing the classic signs of NEC but he was treated for it anyway just incase, by resting his tummy and having antibiotics. His kidneys then started to fail and he stopped peeing, and his potassium was dangerously high which can lead to serious heart issues. Late evening on Thursday 23rd September (nanny’s 60th birthday!) the consultant told us that Ralph wasn’t likely to make it through the night and that we should call in friends and family to say goodbye. Me being ever the optimist kept saying don’t worry everyone he’s just being clever and he’s giving us all a scare so that he can meet you because he knows the COVID rules usually allowed for Grandparents only.

My mum, brother and best friend came along with Lee’s mum, dad and sister. Everyone couldn’t believe how tiny but completely perfect he was. Lee and I then asked everyone to go home a few hours later so that we could sit with Ralph. We slept in the chairs next to his incubator through the night and then our strong boy surprised everyone and picked up a little.

The consultant told us he was going to try and do everything he could to stabilise Ralph as much as possible so that he could go in for surgery. They wanted to operate to find out what was obstructing his bowel and why he wasn’t peeing. We were expecting a blockage of some sort.

On Sunday 26th September Ralph went down for surgery just after lunchtime. We signed consent forms and we knew how risky the operation was as he was very unwell and very tiny. A few hours later we went back up to the NICU and were quickly ushered into the quiet room. One of the surgeons came in with tears in her eyes and we knew instantly, whatever they found wasn’t good. Others then joined and they explained they found Ralph had a severe case of NEC. He had just 6cm of bowel alive, to put into perspective most newborn babies have around 150-250cm of bowel.

I won’t go into detail as to everything that happened next as we would like to keep this private but we said goodbye to our beautiful tiny boy later that evening.

We will miss him every minute of every day for the rest of our lives. We hope to raise money for various charities in his memory and try to do as much good as we can. He was so incredibly brave and strong so we’re doing our best to follow in his little footsteps.

We have since found out the reason Ralph was born early was due to a placenta abruption with the cause unknown. We have hundreds of pictures and videos plus some special keepsakes. His pictures are all around the house and we will forever keep his memory alive.

We love you to the moon and back,

Mummy and Daddy xxxxxx