St Albans mums rally to support family who are struggling to visit seriously ill newborn in hospital

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. - Credit: Archant

A Bricket Wood mum is struggling to visit her seriously ill baby after the hospital imposed visiting rules over the school summer holidays.

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Oliver and his brother Bryan. - Credit: Archant

When mum Karen Knak gave birth to baby Oliver Knak-Noka at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in May this year, she had little idea the difficulties that were about to be forced upon the family.

At just two days old, the tiny newborn had his first operation to correct a rare defect where the oesophagus does not properly meet the stomach, called oesophageal atresia.

Since then he has had numerous other surgeries because of his VACTERL association, including on his nose and heart, and Oliver is still in hospital.

VACTERL is an acronym for all the different defects around the body - vertebral, anorectal, cardiac, tracheo-oesphageal fistula/oesophageal atresia, renal and limb.

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. - Credit: Archant


You may also want to watch:


It is unclear what causes the disorder and it affects around one in 10,000 to 40,000 births.

However, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital is currently undergoing redevelopment and has imposed rules on visiting hours in the Neonatal Intensive Care and High Dependency.

Most Read

In force for ten weeks over the school summer holidays, no more than two people can visit a cot at a time and one of those must be a parent.

This mean that Oliver's siblings - Bryan Knak and Nathan Noka - cannot visit together and Karen or dad Dashamir "Tony" Noka must accompany them.

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. - Credit: Archant

As Tony has to work and Karen cannot leave four-year-old Nathan by himself, the family are struggling to visit baby Oliver while he recovers.

When Karen's friends at How Wood Primary School heard about the dilemma, they came together to raise money for childcare.

Carey Boswell, mum of Nathan's friend Willow, set up the fundraising page. She said: "It is so sad and it is not something I have had to go through.

"We set up the fundraiser to help the family financially, to take that pressure off their shoulders. They have an ill child in hospital so that is their main concern."

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Oliver with his brother Nathan and mum Karen. - Credit: Archant

The fundraiser has already collected nearly £1,000 for the family and messages of support have flooded the page.

One reads: "Cannot begin to imagine what you are going through trying to care for your newborn and your boys. I'm also self employed and know what a worry that can be.

"So more than happy to help and try and reduce that stress. I just pray that everything goes well for you and you can be home together as a family soon."

Another says: "You deserve all the love and support coming your way. Stay positive."

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. - Credit: Archant

Brazilian Karen, Albanian Tony, Bryan and Nathan moved to Bricket Wood in October last year.

She said: "It is really hard for us to manage and I can't afford childcare. It is very stressful for me because they won't let me take both of them at the same time.

"It is a lot for us, especially having the other kids and my husband was struggling financially in the beginning - but we are really blessed with the mums in Nathan's nursery. They have supported us a lot.

"For myself, it's a struggle to see him [Oliver] so poorly and I can't do much."

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. - Credit: Archant

The hospital is constructing a £25million expansion of the hospital's critical care units, doubling capacity in adult intensive care and allowing for treatment of up to 2,000 patients every year.

This Critical Care project was announced on the 70th anniversary of the NHS, which took place on July 5, 2018.

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital is a regional centre for neonatal care.

A spokesperson for the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: "We are always committed to providing the highest standards of care possible.

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Oliver with mum Karen, dad Tony, and brothers Bryan and Nathan. - Credit: Archant

"We do have major development works taking place to transform and expand our Critical Care and Neonatal Intensive Care Units to improve the care we offer our sick patients and babies.

"We need to ensure that there is a safe environment first of all for our babies and then families including other children visiting the unit.

"We are in contact with the family to see how we can best support them, both to see the best care for their new baby and to provide care for the whole family."

Donate to the fundraiser at www.gofundme.com/f/help-karen-amp-tony

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. - Credit: Archant

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated

Oliver Knak-Noka has had numerous surgeries because of his VACTERL association and is being treated at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. - Credit: Archant

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter