Family from near Morpeth pays tribute to son's life-saving hospital staff for Newcastle Hospitals Charity campaign
Stefan Lepkowski’s son Jan, then aged three, was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in January 2017 after he fell into a garden pond.
Stefan is pictured with Dr Asif Hasan, one of the medical professionals that saved Jan’s life, in Newcastle Hospitals Charity’s Unforgettable People campaign, which Stefan hopes will bring attention to the impact hardworking NHS staff have on patient’s lives.
He said: “You do not need to read newspapers every month to see that it is a trying time in the NHS and I just think people forget very quickly how amazing they are.”
On the day of the accident, Stefan’s wife Ania discovered Jan had let himself out of their home, near Morpeth, and was injured in the pond.
Stefan rushed to the hospital and was immediately taken into the room where doctors and nurses were working on Jan’s “totally lifeless” body.
He remembers the “horrible” feeling of Jan’s hand being “as cold as holding something out the fridge,” but described the “kind of privilege” of watching the medical team work.
It was during this “surreal” experience that he met Dr Hasan. Stefan said: “He came in and he sat down next to me and we just started to chat.
“I did not realise the reason he was chatting to me was because they were trying to rebuild a thing called an ECMO machine.”
An Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine bypasses the lungs and heart of a patient, artificially providing the blood with oxygen and pumping it around the body.
The hospital did not have a portable ECMO machine at the time, and Dr Hasan was talking to Stefan while the machine was reassembled in the room.
Dr Hasan then announced that he was able to feel a strong pulse, despite information from monitors to the contrary.
According to Stefan: “Asif later told me he had to do that because he could tell when he walked into the room that morale had hit rock bottom.
“They tried everything and it just was not working, so he needed to get spirits in the room up.”
The machine was able to stabilise Jan and he was transferred to the specialist paediatric heart unit in the Freeman Hospital.
His condition was still poor, but despite the odds he began to slowly recover. Jan was eventually able to return home after eight weeks in hospital, and is now a healthy 10-year-old.
Stefan said: “The first thing he wanted to do was go on his balance bike, and he could hardly walk. But you could see being in a home environment, the stimulus was really, really good.”
While many hospital workers brush off praise, Stafan says they deserve “a proper thank you.”
He said: “If I was to single out one person who clearly tipped the balance for us it was Asif, and that's why I said he's the person that I would like to acknowledge.”
To this day Stefan remains “enormously grateful,” adding: “I try not to let any day go by and not realise just how lucky I am to have a wonderful family and a wonderful child, a miraculous child, in the middle of it.”