Hospital's Covid rules force pair to take turns to see ill daughter

Parents of a severely ill baby are forced to take turns to see their four-month-old daughter due to hospital’s Covid rules which ban them from visiting her together

  • Reagan Lewis and Mitch Smith want to sit together with ill baby daughter Alessi
  • The now four-month-old was born without a heartbeat, but doctors saved her
  • However she suffered brain damage and is in hospital awaiting an operation
  • Bristol Royal Hospital for Children say the pair cannot visit Alessi together
  • Trust operating hospital say the rules are to protect its staff from coronavirus 

The parents of a severely ill baby are being forced to take it in turns to see their daughter in hospital due to Covid rules which ban them from visiting together.

Reagan Lewis and Mitch Smith have been told they cannot sit as a family with daughter Alessi due to the strict Covid restrictions at busy Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

The pair are desperate to be with their now four-month-old baby, who was born without a heartbeat.

Though doctors successfully battled for 35 minutes to save her life, Alessi suffered severe brain damage and experts believe her life will be limited.  

Reagan, 24, and Mitch, 29, say they want to spend as much time as possible with their baby daughter, who is currently in hospital awaiting an operation.

But they say that they are being stopped from visiting Alessi together, forcing them to take it in turns to sit by her side. They say they are also having to have ‘difficult conversations and make difficult decisions alone’.

The pair have now slammed the rules, which they say ‘make no sense’.

However hospital bosses have defended the restrictions, which they say are in place to keep staff safe.

Reagan Lewis and Mitch Smith (pictured with Alessi and her sister Iyla) have been told they can’t sit as a family with their ill daughter due to Covid restrictions at busy Bristol’s Children’s Hospital

The pair are desperate to be together with Alessi (pictured in hospital), who was born without a heartbeat. Doctors successfully battled for 35 minutes to save her life, but she suffered brain damage

Reagan, 24, and Mitch, 29, say they want to spend as much time as possible with their baby daughter (pictured), who is in hospital awaiting an operation

Alessi’s mother Reagan said: ‘Covid rules means me and Mitch can barely be with Alessi together.

‘We are having to have difficult conversations and make crucial decisions alone.

‘This shouldn’t be the case. Parents should be allowed to be with their child 24/7.

‘It angers me as you can go to a supermarket along with 100 strangers yet you can’t sit with your daughter as a family even when you have your own room. It makes no sense.’  

The ‘nightmare’ began for the pair, from Mangotsfield, Bristol, when Reagan was was told she would need an emergency Caesarean section after suffering complications during childbirth. 

When she awoke from the emergency procedure, she was told the devastating news that Alessi was born without a heartbeat and had been rushed into intensive care.  

Reagan, who had a straightforward pregnancy up until the birth, said: ‘It was like waking up in a nightmare. I didn’t know what was real.

‘When I came round the nurses told me I needed to rest and recover and only Mitch could go and see Alessi.

‘Ten minutes later, I was told “you really need to go down and see your baby, she is very poorly”.

‘I was trying to prepare myself for what I was about to walk into. It was heartbreaking the first time I saw her, I couldn’t speak – I was lost for words.

‘I just sat in my wheelchair in disbelief. We didn’t know what was going to happen, we had to take hour by hour, not knowing if and what bad news we were going to get each day.’

Alessi stayed on the NICU unit for 10 weeks. During that time she was on a ventilator and had a chest drain due to a punctured lung from resuscitation.

An MRI scan confirmed she had suffered severe brain damage, while Alessi also had seizures and suffered suspected meningitis and extubation from the ventilator.

The ‘nightmare’ began for the pair (pictured), from Mangotsfield, Bristol, when Reagan was was told she would need an emergency Caesarean section after suffering complications during childbirth

Mitch’s wish was to have Alessi home for Christmas, along with his elder daughter, lyla, aged six.

Amazingly, Alessi was discharged from hospital a week before Christmas, and the whole family were able to spend the special day together.

But weeks later, her health deteriorated again, and she is now being cared for back at Bristol Children’s Hospital. 

Reagan said: ‘Alessi has good days and bad days. She can’t cry but some days we know she is uncomfortable.

‘We like to hold her as much as we can so she knows we are there, even when she is sleeping.

Doctors have also told the family that Alessi suffers from severe hearing loss, and is likely to need hearing aids.

She has to stay in hospital for at least another month while she waits for an operation to have a tracheostomy fitted.

Reagan’s older sister, Amber, has now launched a GoFundMe appeal so Mitch does not need to work during this traumatic period.

The 29-year-old said: ‘It’s been horrendous. Because of Covid we haven’t been able to be there for Reagan in the hospital.

‘At first we were told to prepare for the worst, we didn’t think she was going to survive the week. Now we don’t know how long, it’s uncertain. No one can predict this.

‘Despite all of this, their little angel fought on, and defied the odds by simply making it out of the theatre.

‘However, no parent could ever be prepared to learn of the lasting effects of brain damage such as that suffered by Alessi.

‘Covid restrictions have robbed Reagan and Mitch of the opportunity to sit together at their daughter’s side whilst she battled through this.

‘The opportunity to spend time with their daughter together and to hold their daughter together was taken from them.’

Amber said: ‘Reagan and Mitch are not the sort of people to ask for help, which is why we are doing so on their behalf.

‘They have been through the most traumatic experience of their lives and tragically there is no light at the end of the tunnel.’

Bosses at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children (pictured), where Alessi is awaiting an operation, say the rules on visitors are in place to protect staff from Covid

Amber says Alessi is unable to swallow, meaning that she must be tube fed now and for the rest of her life, and will never be able to walk or talk. 

She added: ‘Alessi’s life expectancy is limited. The time that Reagan and Mitch have left with Alessi is so incredibly precious and should be spent together as a family making memories.

‘Please help us by donating and allowing Mitch to be off work without the financial worry.’

Dr William Oldfield, medical director at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘We recognise the impact COVID-19 is having on everyone and our aim is to accommodate visitors in a way that maintains the safety of patients, staff and visitors in line with national guidance.

‘We understand that the visiting arrangements in place during the COVID-19 pandemic can be difficult for families who are affected, and our dedicated ward teams are on hand to give additional support whenever it is needed.

‘We appreciate that some families will have very exceptional circumstances where it will be necessary to vary this guidance and we encourage visitors to speak to staff on the ward if they have any specific needs that they feel should be taken into consideration.’

The GoFundMe page has already raised over £20,000. 

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