Tegan Mitchell is relieved to be back at home in Tumut and getting into a regular routine after spending two months in hospital when her son Chase was born prematurely.
Chase was due October 25, but was born nearly 11 weeks early – at just 29 weeks – on August 10 in Canberra. Tegan and Chase spent three weeks there until being moved to Wagga Wagga Base Hospital.
Ms Mitchell was first sent to Canberra via Gundagai to have an ultrasound and some tests done. She received the results the following week, and ended up back in Canberra Hospital following further complications.
“That first week I was in hospital I just rested,” Ms Mitchell said, with Chase being born a week after she was admitted.
“When he was born he just went straight to NICU. They incubated him and he went straight up, he was on CPAP for breathing and he was on a few medications.”
Ms Mitchell didn’t see him until the day after he was born and wasn’t able to hold him until Friday, three days later.
“He was so little and it was very overwhelming because you know, having two full term pregnancies, and then with him I had complications,” Ms Mitchell said. She and her partner Scott Pollack had not been expecting Chase to arrive early.
Ms Mitchell said that during an experience such as this, all you can do is take it day by day.
“You just had to roll with it, there’s not much more you can do,” she said. “Nature takes its course and it did.”
On top of the stress of Chase being born early, Ms Mitchell and Mr Pollack also had to navigate the new world of Covid-19 restrictions in the hospitals.
The hardest part for Ms Mitchell was not being able to see her two children, one-year-old Piper and seven-year-old Darcy.
“I couldn’t see the kids, that was the biggest thing,” she said.
“I didn’t see [Piper] for two weeks whereas my son Darcy, I didn’t see him for a month.
“It was really emotionally draining – as well as what was going on with Chase, that was the hardest part – but just not being able to see the kids.”
Additionally, whilst Ms Mitchell could see Chase as much as she wanted, Mr Pollack could only see him for one hour a day, and no other visitors were allowed.
“[Both kids] and my Dad met Chase through the glass bio door at the Tumut Hospital, that’s how they met Chase,” Ms Mitchell said, commenting that “2020’s been insane,” echoing a sentiment shared by many this year.
She said that particular memory is going to stand out amongst the entire experience, plus her son Darcy breaking his arm in Wagga at a play centre.
“So I had [Chase] in special care and Darcy in emergency,” Ms Mitchell said.
Something that helped take the weight off, Ms Mitchell said, was being able to stay at the Ronald McDonald house for three weeks.
“It was just so nice,” she said. “If we had to pay for accommodation over there we’d be broke.”
It was not Ms Mitchell’s first time staying at a Ronald McDonald house, either.
“I’ve stayed in Ronald McDonald as a kid,” she explained.
“My parents used to use Ronald McDonald in Randwick as a kid for [my brother].
“And then I was a patient at Randwick Children’s Hospital so we would use it for that, so Ronald McDonald is really close to our heart.”
When asked what she would tell other women going through a similar experience, Ms Mitchell said this is something that you can “never ever” prepare for.
“Be assertive, make sure you stay onto your doctors and nurses because they might say one thing and you have a doctor come in the next day and they say something completely different, and it’s like what did you mean by, what did you say yesterday?” she said.
“Not seeing [Chase] until the next day, not holding him, it just felt like a big bad dream. Until I held him it was like ‘he’s actually ours’, it didn’t feel clinical anymore.”
Baby Chase is doing very well now, with Ms Mitchell saying he has gone along “in leaps and bounds” since arriving home.
McHappy Day is approaching soon, taking place on November 14 this month to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities.
McDonald’s Tumut licensee Hani Sidaros said that this year in particular has been incredibly tough for families who have a seriously ill or injured child.
“All the funds raised for McHappy Day at Tumut McDonald’s restaurant will go towards supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities, which provides a range of programs that make a real impact to the lives of families and children in their time of need,” Mr Sidaros said.