When her baby was born with life-threatening complications requiring care at a bigger hospital, Chantelle Northfield should have been able to stay by his side as her newborn fought for his life.
Instead, thanks to strict coronavirus restrictions, baby Harvey was whisked away to Queensland by helicopter without her – forcing Chantelle and her husband Glen to make a heartbreaking choice: stay home in their northern New South Wales town, or quarantine in Brisbane for 14 days before being allowed to see him.
An impossible choice
Baby Harvey was born at Lismore Hospital – the second son for the Northfields – but due to complications following his birth, the newborn had to be flown to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, across the border in Queensland.
The anguished parents were told that due to social distancing restrictions, they could not accompany baby Harvey on the flight, but were assured that they could drive up and meet them at the hospital if they got the necessary permissions to cross the Queensland border.
Despite being granted permission by NSW Health and Queensland Police, Chantelle and Glen were then foiled by coronavirus restrictions once more – refused entry by the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital unless they quarantined themselves in a hotel for 14 days first, even if they tested negative to COVID-19.
“All I want are both my boys with me”
In a post on her Facebook page, Chantelle said, “We have tried our absolute hardest to get there, and the workers for the hospital tried as well, it was just one person from higher up that refused our entry.”
The family shared their plight in an interview with 7 News and a Change.org petition was also launched, urging Queensland authorities to reverse their decision, which has quickly gained over 11,000 signatures in support of the family.
The couple chose to return home to their one-year-old son and were forced to use video calls to see their newborn baby boy.
Parents with sick baby, Harvey before he was sent to Queensland – Image: 7 News
“Facetime’s just not the same as I can’t even lay a finger on him and just say that I love him,” a teary Chantelle told 7 News.
“He’s hooked up to tubes, he’s sleeping, he doesn’t get to hear my heartbeat. All I want is both my boys with me, happy and healthy. I just want him to know how much I love him.”
“It’s just not right”
In happier news, after four days away from his loving parents, Harvey’s health has improved enough to be transported back to Lismore hospital and into his grateful mama’s arms.
But the mum and dad are adamant that this should never happen to another family. In a statement to 7 News, distraught father Glen said, “It’s just not right and it shouldn’t ever happen again to anyone.”
Many of their supporters agree, calling for changes to ensure this doesn’t happen to other families in a similar situation.
“The importance of early bonding between mother and baby has been proven through numerous studies,” wrote family friend, Maddison Mortensen, who started the Change.org petition. “I will continue to keep to petition going, not just for this beautiful little family. But so other mums and families do not go through this!”
There’s no denying that this was a tricky situation for paramedics, hospital staff and health departments to manage, but knowing the importance of those first few hours and days of bonding for both mothers and their newborns – especially sick babies – many supporters are hoping that changes will occur to ensure that families don’t get caught up in this same kind of bureaucratic ‘red tape’ in future.
We know that restrictions due to the pandemic are absolutely necessary, but surely some flexibility and compassion with regards to special circumstances like this (and pending a negative result on the mandatory COVID-19 test, of course), could be exercised?
It will be interesting to see how similar situations play out as this pandemic continues on.
We wish Chantelle, Glen and baby Harvey all the best, and we hope that gorgeous little Harvey continues to thrive.