Jo, Tom & Ollie’s Story

October 20, 2022

When islander Jo went into labour at 28 weeks, she and her husband Tom were whisked to the mainland, unable to return home to the islands for three months…

“It was a few days before Christmas,” recalls Tom. “We were making plans for our last Christmas as a couple before we became a family of three when Jo’s waters broke and she went into labour at just 28 weeks.”

The couple were whisked to Treliske Hospital in Truro, where Jo was confirmed to have PPROM (Preterm prelabour rupture of membranes) – a complication that affects around 3% of pregnancies and often leads to premature birth.

As they lived on the Isles of Scilly, remote from a major hospital, medics explained to the couple that they would be unable to return home to the islands until the baby was born and discharged from Neonatal care.

“Naturally, your first thought is for your wife and baby, and I feared for them both in those early days. After the initial shock, though, my thoughts turned to more practical matters. How long will we be here? Where will we live? What will it all cost?”

Jo was able to stay in the hospital while under observation, and Tom was fortunate to be allowed to sleep on a chair in her side room when staff realised he couldn’t go home.

A waiting game…


Once Jo’s condition stabilised shortly before New Year, she was discharged from the hospital but was still unable to return to the islands.

“I spent days looking for accommodation but it was just before New Year, so most letting agencies were closed, and those that were open would only offer six-month lets or extortionate short-term prices,” recalls Tom. “Hotels, guesthouses, self-catering lets and B&Bs were either fully booked or out of our price range. We had to be within a short drive of Treliske and had no idea whether we’d need the accommodation for six weeks or six months. It was an impossible situation.” 

While waiting to fly out from the islands, the couple had been chatting to a friend who had kept in contact throughout their journey. Unbeknownst to the couple, she had been quietly working away on their behalf, and a friend had come up trumps.

“One day, out of the blue, we had a call offering us an annexe just a 20-minute drive from Treliske for as long as we needed. We both just burst into tears of relief and amazement at the kindness of a stranger; a friend of a friend.”

 Two weeks later, on 13th  January, Ollie was born by emergency caesarean at 31 weeks and 3 days, weighing just over 1kg. 

Ollie on the day of his birth


“Ollie was taken straight into the care of the incredible Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Treliske, and Jo was discharged a few days later but obviously there was no way we could return to Scilly and leave Ollie on the mainland,” says Tom. “We spent the next few weeks spending as much time as possible in the Neonatal Unit, watching and helping him grow.”

Ollie progressed well, gaining weight and quickly shrugging off ventilators and monitors.

On 22nd February, five weeks after his birth, still almost a month short of his due date, and three months after leaving Scilly, Ollie was discharged from the NICU and the new family finally went home to Scilly.

On Skybus heading for home

“We will never forget the kindness of friends and strangers,” recalls Tom. “But things could easily have been so different. If we hadn’t bumped into the friend at the airport. If her friend hadn’t had a vacant annexe and been so kind. If I hadn’t been allowed to sleep in a chair at Jo’s bedside in the hospital. If Ollie’s stay in NICU had been longer. If we didn’t have use of a car to get to the hospital each day. If this had all happened during the pandemic…

“We never for a moment thought we’d be in this situation, needing a place to stay on the mainland for a protracted period of medical treatment. You assume you’ll stay in hospital if that’s the case – but quite rightly, it’s not a hotel, and no matter where you live and how hard it might be, if you don’t need to be there, they’ll discharge you – and there’s certainly no space for a partner or loved one to stay.

“As understandable as it was, we felt we were between a rock and a hard place – discharged from the hospital but not allowed home to the islands – and it could happen to anyone.

“Whether you’re flown out in an emergency and discharged in the middle of the night, or caring for a loved one during protracted treatment, or you need extended outpatient care – living on Scilly means we’re in a totally unique situation. We can’t just hop in the car and drive to and from the hospital. There are 30 miles of ocean, costly flights and travel uncertainty to factor in.

“We were so incredibly fortunate, but it shouldn’t be down to luck and the kindness of strangers for islanders to have a safe place to stay in their moment of need.

“That’s where The Island Haven comes in – and it will be life-changing for islanders.”

Ollie aged three (2022)