Heaven's missing an angel

My hearbreaking decision had a happy outcome...

Published by: Amy Thompson
Published on: 17th February 2011

They say if you love someone you should set them free, let them go. If they come back, they’re yours, if they don’t, they never were.
I couldn’t agree more.
It was a massive shock when I fell pregnant. Me and my boyfriend Chris had only been dating a few months, although we’d known each other for years.
So when he’d said he couldn’t cope with being a dad, I knew I had to let him go. ‘It’ll be me, you, and your baby brother or sister,’ I told my daughter Natasha, five.
‘The baby can have my top bunk bed,’ Natasha beamed, excitedly.
At my 30-week scan, I found out I was expecting a girl. ‘We can play princesses,’ Natasha squealed.
‘You’ll always be my princesses,’ I said.
Natasha frowned. ‘We can’t both be princesses.’
‘What will your sister be, then?’ I asked, bemused.
She thought about it for a minute. ‘An angel!’ she said.
As my due date approached, Natasha constantly asked when her little sister would be here.
‘Soon,’ I promised. And I wasn’t wrong – two weeks early, I went into labour.
My mum and best mate Natalie rushed me to Jessop Hospital, in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Ten minutes after arriving, I was handed a tiny pink bundle.
‘She’s gorgeous,’ Natalie smiled. ‘What are you going to call her?’
‘Naomi,’ I beamed.
The next day, instead of taking Naomi home, I had a temperature. ‘You’ll have to stay until you’re better,’ a nurse told me.
By the end of the week, my temperature was normal and I called my brother Bradley to pick us up. But just before he arrived, the midwife popped in.
‘Naomi’s looking jaundiced,’ she said. ‘Do you mind if the doctor takes a look?’
‘Of course not,’ I said.
An hour passed, then the midwife came back – in tears.
‘I think you need to come and see her,’ she said.
‘What’s wrong?’ I panicked.
She wouldn’t tell me any more, though, just took me in a wheelchair to the baby unit.
The moment I clapped eyes on Naomi, covered in tubes and wires in an incubator, my heart stopped.
As if on cue, Bradley arrived with Mum. ‘Oh God!’ she gasped, seeing my little girl.
We were ushered into a side room by a doctor. ‘I’m sorry,’ he started, gravely. ‘But Naomi has a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. It means the left side of her heart is too small to function properly.’
I shook my head, speechless. An hour ago, I’d had a happy, healthy baby – now I was being told she only had half a heart?
‘Can’t you operate?’ Mum asked.
‘Normally, yes,’ he nodded. ‘But Naomi’s had this condition from birth. Her liver and kidneys are failing, too. She wouldn’t survive the operation.’
The hospital wasn’t equipped to deal with her condition, so she was taken to Leeds Hospital, in West Yorkshire. I followed in a taxi.
But the worst was still to come.
‘Naomi isn’t stabilising,’ doctors warned me. ‘She probably won’t make it through the night.’
I felt like I’d been punched. All I could do was stay with Naomi throughout the night, watching her tiny chest rise and fall – hoping for a miracle. Every time it stopped, panic surged through me.
By morning, I was a mess. But Naomi had survived.
Maybe she could fight this?
I spent hours rifling through leaflets about her condition. But the more I read, the more hopeless it seemed.
‘Even if they could operate, she’d have to have endless hospital visits and operations,’ I explained to Mum.
Her face paled. I took a deep breath. ‘Her doctor says her life expectancy would be five years. I could lose her before she even makes Natasha’s age.’
‘Oh, love,’ Mum soothed, hugging me.
Despite everything, I tried staying positive but, five days later, Naomi was no better.
‘You have a choice,’ the doctor told me. ‘We can keep Naomi alive and wait to see if she improves. Or you can let her go now.’
His words hit like a sledgehammer. Did he really think I could stand by and let my baby die?
‘No, she’ll pull through, I know it,’ I said, firmly.
Yet when I was on my own, I knew I had to consider her options, so I wrote down my thoughts…
What kind of life would she have if they operated? I scribbled down.
She’d be alive, but she wouldn’t be living. She’d be too fragile to play with her sister, she’d have an endless string of operations…
Or she could slip away peacefully now. I could save her so much heartache.
‘What should I do?’ I sobbed to Naomi. ‘Fight for you? Or let you go?’
Doctors had put her into an induced paralysis so she wouldn’t strain her heart.
If you love someone, set them free…
After six days in hospital, I decided.
‘I’m going to let her go,’ I told the doctor. ‘But I want to say goodbye first.’
Mum brought Natasha in so we could do it together.
‘You know Naomi’s our little angel?’ I told her tearfully. ‘Well, they need her back in heaven.’
She nodded sadly. ‘Bye, Naomi,’ she added, kissing her little sister. ‘I’ll write to you.’
Afterwards, I clutched at the last shred of hope.
‘Please, check her liver and kidneys once more,’ I asked the doctor. ‘If there’s no improvement, then…’
He agreed and took Naomi for tests. When he came back, he looked baffled.
‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ he said. ‘Naomi’s heart has started to heal itself. If we operate, there’s a chance it could cure her.’
I couldn’t believe it. I’d been minutes away from turning off Naomi’s ventilator. My angel truly was a miracle.
For three long hours, I paced the hospital corridors. Then…
‘Everything went well,’ the surgeon said. ‘You should be able to take her home in a few months.’
I collapsed in tears of relief.
She defied the odds once again when, two weeks later, I was allowed to take her home.
Now, Naomi’s celebrated her first birthday and loves playing with Natasha. Her daddy’s even come back into our lives.
I loved her enough to let her go, but my angel loved us enough to come back from the brink of death.
Nicole Woolhouse, 23, Sheffield, South Yorkshire