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Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne COVID-19 outbreak came as baby Barnaby fought for his life

ABC Health logo ABC Health 30/07/2020 By Annah Fromberg
a baby sitting on a bed: Barnaby Craw has been fighting for his life in the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. (Supplied: Craw family) © Provided by ABC Health Barnaby Craw has been fighting for his life in the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. (Supplied: Craw family)

Launceston couple Dylan and Lisa Craw were already stressed and anxious packing their bags for their first plane trip with their newborn son, Barnaby.

They were headed to Melbourne, the epicentre of Australia's coronavirus outbreak — but they had no choice.

Twelve-week-old Barnaby was born with a hole in his heart and needed urgent surgery at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.

"It was the last place we wanted to be heading, but the way we thought about it was if we didn't come over here, then his life was in danger," Mr Craw said.

With limited flights out of Launceston, the couple had to drive to Hobart to catch a plane.

"Obviously it's a tough journey for us anyway with Barnaby, but COVID-19 has made it twice as bad — both of us can't be together in the hospital, let alone at the bedside, so that means it's really tough to support each other, let alone him," Mr Craw said.

Ms Craw said it was an extremely frightening situation.

"He's our first baby," she said.

"He's a very sick baby."

'Complication after complication'

Barnaby, who weighed just 1.625 kilograms at birth, had surgery to repair a ventricular septal defect (VSD) in his heart two weeks ago.

"For the amazing surgeons over here it's fairly routine, but Barnaby had quite a few issues post-op and in ICU he went downhill quite badly," Mr Craw said.

"He had to have his chest reopened for a couple of days to relieve the pressure on his heart and internal organs, so he had to have a second surgery to do that, then they closed it after four days, and then he had a few more hiccups."

The baby spent eight days in paediatric ICU instead of the two that had been predicted.

"We really should have been home by now but it's just been complication after complication," Mr Craw said.

"We're lucky we've still got him … it's been quite a journey.

Ms Craw said the restrictions increased in the pressure.

"Not being there together was just that added extra emotional toll — that certainly has tested us." Ms Craw said.


Two floors below a coronavirus outbreak

Earlier this week Victorian health authorities confirmed a COVID-19 outbreak at the hospital after a baby, two parents, and a healthcare worker returned positive tests.

"That's on the fifth floor and luckily we're a few floors below that," Mr Craw said.

"To be honest, there's not a lot of talk of it inside the hospital … even though there is an outbreak, I still feel relatively safe."

Mr Craw said there were a lot of procedures and hoops to jump through just to get inside the building.

"Overall it's a very scary situation, but they're doing everything they can to keep everyone safe and taking every precaution possible," he said.

A spokesperson said the Royal Children's Hospital had not allowed visitors on site since March, before visitor directives were issued.

"Any parent, guardian or staff member entering the hospital undergoes health screening and temperature checking before being allowed access," the spokesperson said.

"Under the Government's visitor restrictions, parents/guardians are not considered visitors.

"Even so, we have insisted that only one parent/guardian is allowed with their child at any time.

"While this has caused upset for many families, there is no intention to strengthen this any further as this would mean our patients would not ever see their parents — this is not an outcome anyone would want."

The spokesperson said 17 staff, seven patients and three parents identified as close contacts were undertaking mandatory quarantine requirements.

Nervous about hotel quarantine in Tasmania

The Craws are hoping to return to Launceston as soon as Barnaby is feeding again and strong enough to travel.

"We are definitely counting down the days," Ms Craw said.

"We think each day we're a little bit closer to home and when we get that all-clear it'll be a celebration."

But the new mother does not expect getting home to be easy.

"Where we'll have to quarantine will be another challenge and we're hoping that with everything our beautiful little newborn has been through, and to help with his healing process, we're hoping we can quarantine in our home environment," she said.

"It's in our best interests not to expose Barnaby to anything and to help him in that recovery."

The Craws had nothing but praise and admiration for the hospital and its staff.

"We wouldn't to be anywhere else in terms of the care we've received from the Royal Children's," Ms Craw said.

Health authorities said all seven babies at the RCH who were classified as close contacts of an infected patient and staff had tested negative.

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