This post, Notes to Little Man: Neonatal Jaundice, follows on from a previous post: Notes to Little Man: The Beginning. ‘The Beginning’ was all about Little Man’s birth and the curve ball we were thrown during his birth. This post follows on from there and commences from when we took Little Man home and his first two weeks with us.

We were quite thankful to get Little Man home after quite a fraught time during his birth. His big sister, Fidget, was waiting to meet him and we were happy that the meeting went well. Fidget took to Little Man immediately, which allowed us to settle into a nice little routine pretty quickly.

Notes to Little Man: Neonatal Jaundice

However, things weren’t destined to be plain sailing – at seven days old, Little Man became quite jaundiced.

This threw us through a loop until we found out that it’s not unusual in new born babies. According to the NHS about six out of every ten babies become jaundiced within a few days of birth. As parents you immediately wonder if you have caused the problem, but:


“Jaundice is caused by the build-up of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow substance produced when red blood cells are broken down.
Jaundice is common in newborn babies because babies have a high level of red blood cells in their blood, which are broken down and replaced frequently. The liver in newborn babies is also not fully developed, so it’s less effective at removing the bilirubin from the blood.
By the time a baby is about two weeks old, their liver is more effective at processing bilirubin, so jaundice often corrects itself by this age without causing any harm.” – NHS Choices


It’s often the level of bilirubin that matters. Our health visitor took notice and action straight away because Little Man’s bilirubin levels were high enough for him to be admitted to Whipps Cross Hospital for phototherapy. This was the worry because if neonatal jaundice is not treated soon enough there is a


“small risk the bilirubin could pass into the brain and cause brain damage.” – NHS Choices


And because of this, Little Man had to spend a couple of days on a bed that emitted fluorescent light undergoing a process called photo-oxidation.

Notes to Little Man: Neonatal Jaundice

This process adds oxygen to the bilirubin which helps it dissolve in water thus allowing the liver to break down the bilirubin thereby removing it from the blood. Little Man seemed quite content on his own personal ‘space bed’. Mum stayed with him throughout, whilst Fidget and I clocked up time in the car and clocked up some pretty hefty parking fees over the few days Little Man was in hospital. Now this wasn’t too bad because the staff at Whipps were great and full of assurances that Little Man would soon be back on an even keel, so we were able to take everything in our stride. Well, as much as you can when your child is sick. After all, neonatal jaundice with high levels of bilirubin makes your child look extremely sick. Couple this with the lethargy and for us it was quite a worrying time.

Once again, I spent time contemplating Little Man’s luck and prayed to all and sundry that this would be it; that this would be as bad as it got. As far as we were concerned, our Little Man had had enough prodding and pulling about. All we wanted was to have our little family home. But little did we know what was coming.

When the jaundice abated after a few days and we were given the all clear to take Little Man home, we were understandably over the moon. At last it appeared that normality would resume and the four of us could settle at home and get on with our lives. However, our going home happened to coincide with Fidget coming home from nursery with a heavy cold. It was just one of those cold bugs that runs riot. And with Little Man, run riot it did. Little Man quickly developed a heavy cold. He became very congested and his breathing was laboured. His chest rattled when he breathed and we were worried because he was so young and we were unsure as to the approach to take. A trip to our GP was in order.

Our GP confirmed the heavy cold and the fact that Little Man was quite congested and told us to keep an eye on him and wait for the cold to run its course. That same evening, however, things didn’t look good. Little Man was quite lethargic and refused his milk. He needed to be fed, so mum kept trying him every few minutes. But then things went from bad to worse. Little Man was crying but there was no sound. He was screaming silently. And that’s when he started to turn blue. He just went limp in mum’s arms, and we couldn’t see or feel him breathing. Mum had the peace of mind to start giving him mouth to mouth, whilst I called the emergency services. Then there was what seemed like an eternity spent on the phone describing the situation whilst mum followed instructions. I have never seen mum so calm, so in control. For that I will forever be grateful. I truly believed mum breathed life back into our Little Man that evening. I am just glad it all happened during the evening and not during the night whilst we slept. That situation doesn’t bear thinking about. When it happened and mum’s quick action gave the paramedics time to reach us before things got any worse.

The first paramedic arrived on a motorbike and by the time he got to Little Man’s side, Little Man was breathing by himself again. By the time the paramedic had given Little Man the once over an ambulance had arrived with two more paramedics. It was after consultation that all three paramedics decided that Little Man needed to be admitted to Whipps Cross Hospital. And thank God they did, because it was during that ambulance journey to the hospital that Little Man stopped breathing again. His relapse in the ambulance, however, gave the paramedics the opportunity to witness for themselves what we could only described.
It was at this stage that they realised that Little Man’s right lung had collapsed.

Continued in our next post, Notes to Little Man: G.O.S.H.