A mum whose three children all suffer from sleep apnoea has given her heartfelt thanks to the medical team at Wrexham Maelor Hospital for the care they have received.
Lowri Roberts’ son Gruff was just eight days old when he was first rushed to the hospital as he had turned blue from breathing problems caused by the condition.
And her daughter Cadi also needed emergency care at Wrexham Maelor when she had a seizure, six days after birth, with sleep apnoea eventually diagnosed.
In all, Lowri and her husband Gareth have spent much of the past four years in and out of Wrexham Maelor Hospital’s children unit as their son Morgan, along with Gruff and Cadi, were all treated for the condition, which causes breathing to be interrupted repeatedly during sleep.
The couple’s eldest child, Cai, is the only one of their four children without the condition.
Lowri says the treatment and care the family has received made a traumatic experience bearable and she will be forever grateful.
“We spent so much time in the unit yet we were always made to feel at home by all the staff who have been so kind,” she said. “I always felt we were listened to, both by the nursing staff and the doctors.”
The family’s problems began in 2012 when their second child Morgan, now aged four, was born three weeks prematurely. He was born with an irregular heart beat and was put on a ventilator to aid his breathing.
“He came home and when he was nine months old he began to vomit up his milk,” said Lowri, originally from Anglesey, who now lives in Gwersyllt and works as an assistant at Tesco in Eastham, Wirral.
“His nose was constantly running and I changed his milk but it didn’t make any difference. I was backward and forwards to the health visitor and he was also found to have huge tonsils.
“He would gasp for air and was losing weight so he underwent a sleep study.”
Doctors discovered that Morgan’s oxygen saturation levels in his blood were dropping really low.
Further tests and treatment to remove his tonsils at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital led to a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnoea, which causes the walls of the throat to collapse during sleep. This interrupts normal breathing as the child wakes up constantly to get the air they need.
He was also found to have very high calcium levels in his blood.
Following treatment Morgan’s health is now improving though he gets very tired due to disturbed sleep and undergoes regular kidney scans.
“It was all a real shock to the system, particularly as our eldest son Cai, who is eight, hasn’t experienced any health problems,” said Lowri.
She became pregnant with her third child Gruff, now two. When Gruff was just eight days old he turned blue and struggled to breathe, resulting in Lowri and Gareth rushing the baby to Wrexham’s accident and emergency department. Like big brother Morgan, the medical teams found that his oxygen saturation levels were plummeting, indicating a breathing problem.
Gruff was transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital where he underwent an MRI scan and a heart scan before being diagnosed with central sleep apnoea – a condition in which the brain fails to signal to the breathing muscles during sleep.
“We couldn’t believe it was all happening again and the doctors said they had never seen central sleep apnoea in a child without any other health problems,” said Lowri. “We were allowed to take Gruff home on two litres of oxygen and a monitor, but within three weeks we noticed his oxygen saturation levels began dropping again.”
Gruff, who also suffered from chicken pox during this period, underwent treatment in Wrexham Maelor and a sleep study at Alder Hey hospital, and was also suffering from acid reflux, when a baby brings up milk and stomach acid during or shortly after feeding.
“Ironically the oxygen had been making the reflux worse,” continued Lowri. “Luckily he no longer needs oxygen and doesn’t experience as many sleep apnoea episodes.”
The couple’s daughter Cadi was born a year ago, and also experienced health problems, suffering a seizure when she was just six days old.
“Cadi had 12 seizures in 12 hours which was a real shock to us, particularly with everything else we’ve experienced.
“The seizures were caused by low calcium levels so Cadi was given an infusion of calcium.
“She developed bronchitis at six weeks and further tests showed that she too was suffering from central sleep apnoea. She came home on oxygen and has since been weaned off it, and is now doing really well.
“Our lives have been turned upside down by this but the staff at Wrexham Maelor have been fantastic and we can’t thank them enough.
“Sometimes it has felt like we’ve spent more time there than home but we’ve always been made to feel at home and this has helped so much. We are still there regularly as Morgan has also had grommets fitted so I’m sure we’ll see more of the staff,” added Lowri.
Wrexham Maelor Hospital children’s unit ward sister Rebecca Morris said: “Sleep apnoea in babies and young children is relatively rare and for Lowri and Gareth Roberts to have had three children suffering from the condition must have been extremely distressing and worrying for the family.
“It is good to hear that their experience at the Maelor hospital was a positive one. It is a tribute to the entire team on the children’s unit who all played an important role in helping to make a traumatic experience more bearable.”