As her son Chester recovers from his operation, Rachel Rabet has criticised the lack of government support for families but paid tribute to three Island charities which have helped her.
Chester, who was born on 18 November, was diagnosed with the congenital heart disease tricuspid atresia soon after his mother attended her 20-week scan last July. Medics also picked up other abnormalities relating to hypoplastic right heart syndrome and ventricular septal defect.
Mrs Rabet, who travelled to Southampton ahead of her due date, said the worries relating to the Covid-19 pandemic had exacerbated the stress for her and her husband, John.
‘The world has been in chaos, so we knew that travelling would not be so easy,’ she said. ‘It made what already was a very frighting and anxious time even harder.’
The joy of a successful birth was short lived for Mrs Rabet, as Chester was taken away within ten minutes for urgent care. ‘It was quite a few hours before we got to see him, and when we did make it down to neonatal to see him we were only allowed to spend 20 minutes together due to Covid restrictions, which was gut-wrenching,’ she said.
Chester and his parents were able to return to Jersey before Christmas, providing an opportunity for older children Braiden (9), seven-year-old Cassidy and Paisley (19 months) to meet their baby brother.
But any semblance of normality did not last long into 2021 – within a week of the new year Mrs Rabet was packing her bags again ahead of a flight to Southampton, and this time her husband was unable to join her.
‘It would have meant a month off work for John by the time he had isolated when he got back, and he needs to keep his holiday, as Chester will be having more surgery later in the year,’ she said.
Mrs Rabet was faced with the prospect of having to make the journey on her own, until a Jersey charity stepped in.
‘Cheryl [Dolbel], from Family First, waved a magic wand and was able to organise for my sister Hannah to accompany me,’ she said. ‘Hannah is able to work away from home and so I was able to get the physical and mental support that I desperately needed. We have had fantastic support from Family First, the Grace Crocker foundation and Friends of SCBU – these charities need more support then ever during these hard times and I never truly realised how important and amazing they are until now.’
Mrs Rabet called for more government support to be available, either directly to affected families or through funding of the work carried out by charities. She was also critical about the lack of mental-health support after she had received Chester’s diagnosis.
‘We were very lucky that at the time of my scan John was allowed to come,’ she said. ‘I can’t imagine having to find out about our son’s heart abnormalities on my own – it was devastating and the world stood still and I didn’t really hear anything else after that.
‘Having my husband there to support me was more important than ever, but there was no one else we could talk to and it would have made a huge difference to have had more support at that point.
‘No expectant mother should have to go to scans on their own – having someone there to support you is so important, whether you are sharing the joy of knowing your baby is healthy, or supporting each other when your world is falling apart.’
In December the government announced that partners would not be allowed to accompany expectant women to scans as a result of Covid restrictions.
Yesterday Mrs Rabet said that she hoped it might be possible to travel back to Jersey with her son soon. Chester had been transferred out of the high-dependency unit, she added, and is ‘doing great’.