When Craig and Jodie Basnett from Oldham welcomed their baby girl Xanthie nicknamed ‘The Warrior Princess’ into the world they quickly realised something was dreadfully wrong.
The couple’s tiny daughter had a stroke in the womb before she was born – meaning she had to have brain surgery at three-days-old. Since then she has had several major surgeries, with potentially more needed in the future.
Jodie and Craig, who are also parents to eight-year-old Mason, say the pregnancy was completely normal. But when Jodie, 30, went into labour, Xanthie was stuck in the birth canal for longer than expected.
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“When she eventually came out we noticed straight away there was some swelling on her head,” explained Craig. “Her head had made it difficult for her to get out, so that was why she was struggling. She was taken for a scan and that confirmed she had hydrocephalus – a build up of fluid on the brain.
“The doctors explained she’d need emergency surgery to relieve the pressure so she’d have to be transferred from our local hospital to Saint Mary’s Hospital straight away. We suddenly went from expecting a full-term healthy baby to what was quite a rough time for the pair of us.”
The initial surgery at Saint Mary’s Hospital helped drain fluid from Xanthie’s brain but another surgery was needed three weeks later at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital to fit a shunt. In cases like Xanthie’s, a shunt is fitted to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid from the brain to another part of the body, such as the abdomen, where it can be more easily absorbed.
Craig, aged 31, said: “She’s now had four shunts in total, with the last one being about 12 months ago. An MRI has shown it was most likely caused by a stroke she had in the womb between 20 and 40 weeks, but unfortunately it was just never picked up on the scans. Usually a baby having a stroke is caused by some sort of trauma like the mum being in a car accident, but nothing like that ever happened. It’ll just be one of those things we don’t understand.
Craig said he did his best to be strong for wife Jodie, who he says struggled with feelings of helplessness. He says only now, as he looks back, he realises the extent of what they endured.
“I’m still fighting some demons,” he admits. “It was hard and it was difficult for Mason, who was only four-years-old himself – I’m proud of how he has come through.”
But Craig, a personal trainer and sports massage therapist, is positive about where they all are today. He says: “Despite everything she’s been through, Xanthie is so resilient and bubbly. She also has cerebral palsy on her right side and was also recently diagnosed with epilepsy, but she gets on with her physio and treatments and never complains.
“She’s so inquisitive and funny. She turned four in June and she’s becoming such a little character. She was excited to start school today (September 5) as she is always interested in learning new things. She loves Peppa Pig, Mr Tumble and Paw Patrol and really gets on well with her big brother.”
Xanthie’s resilience and determination helped fuel Craig’s enthusiasm for a cycle ride to raise funds for Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity. The event saw Craig and his pals cycle from children’s hospitals in Edinburgh to Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool, Cardiff, London, Birmingham and Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. His cycling companions for the entire 879 mile route were Luke Wallace, Niall Collins and Lee Pennington, with Tim Whittaker joining for a portion of the way – and together they raised over £12,000.
Speaking from the family home in Royton, Jodie said: “Craig’s original target was £5,000 but they hit that as they were cycling south of Glasgow. I’m so proud of Craig for what he has achieved and we’re so lucky to have Xanthie and Mason in our lives.
Craig has been my rock throughout it all. When everything happened with Xanthie I suffered from PTSD. It’s so hard seeing your child go through something like that, but Craig has been so supportive of the whole family and then to do the cycle ride on top of everything else was just…there are no words.”
Craig added: “It was tough going. Most of my practice cycles had been about 30 miles so to do 100 miles straight off was something else. I’m so glad I had the lads with me to keep me going – when one of us was struggling the others would be encouraging. It was so much easier being able to do the challenge as a team.
“After everything that has happened with Xanthie we knew we wanted to do something to say thank you to everyone who has helped her. They’ve saved her life and it’s thanks to them we have a gorgeous little girl with us today. We can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done and there just aren’t any words to say how truly grateful we are to the hospital.”
Georgia Sleigh, one of the Charity’s Relationship Officers, said: “Craig and Jodie have been through so much, and have their hands full raising two children, but still found it in their hearts to give up their time to fundraise for our Charity. We’re overwhelmed at how well the challenge went and we’re so grateful to everyone who donated and made the final amount of £12,135.24 possible.
If you’d like to find out more about supporting Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity visit www.rmchcharity.org.uk