A Stitch in Time: 17 weeks
In week three of Jane’s enforced bedrest, Jane is settling into her routine and catching up on the news, something she never got to do when she was working. What she hears is distressing, especially in light of her situation.
Being on bed rest, I watch a lot of news. It is nice to feel like I know what is going on in the world. When I was working, I would go days without really having a clue.
One of the stories that has really resonated with me recently is a story released by the charity ‘Bliss – for babies born too soon, too small or too sick’, that nursing staff cuts are affecting our country’s neo-natal units, which are putting babies lives at risk.
I have been told by my consultant that I am at high risk of going into preterm labour. If this happens before 24 weeks, I will lose my baby. If, however, I make it to 24 weeks, but give birth before 37 weeks, I may well need the support of such a neo-natal unit. The thought that the UK is not meeting the minimum standards set by the Department of Health for these units is truly shocking, and a scary thought. How many sick babies are not getting the care they need?
The story is even more poignant to me because without the wonderful work of the neo-natal unit at Nottingham General Hospital sixteen years ago, my beloved cousin and godson, Charlie, would not be with us today. I was sixteen when he was born, and I remember the feeling of fear and helplessness for that tiny baby’s life, a baby who we all loved from the moment he was born. Now I am pregnant myself and have talked to my Aunty about her experience, it is even more incredible to me.
Charlie was born 5 weeks premature. He was 5lbs 4oz. My Aunty was in hospital on strict bed rest with very high blood pressure. This hypertension caused her to have an epileptic fit that triggered premature labour. Charlie was born very quickly. At first he seemed to be doing fine and it was my Aunty we were worried about, as she was very poorly as a result of the fit and the drugs they gave her afterwards. However, after a few hours, when my Mum was feeding Charlie a bottle (my Aunty was too sick to feed), he stopped eating and started struggling to breathe. A nurse was called immediately and he was put on a ventilator. Charlie was scanned and it was found that the epileptic fit had caused a hernia in his diaphragm through which his intestines had moved into his chest cavity, causing his lung to collapse and heart to move to the other side of his body.
An operation that took 8 hours and 3 surgeons took place the following day. I can’t begin to imagine what my Aunty and Uncle went through during this time. Everything was moved back into place and a balloon was placed where his collapsed lung was. This would be gradually deflated. Charlie was sedated and was unconscious for 5 days, whilst my Aunty held a bedside vigil. He came round too soon, but due to the amazing care given by the neo-natal unit, and a huge dose of luck from the powers that be, he started breathing on his own. He stayed in hospital on the high dependency unit being watched and cared for by those amazing nurses as he grew in strength, and eventually went onto a low dependency unit, and was eventually allowed home on his due date. Charlie was finally given the “all clear” when he was 4 years old. We were told at that stage that diaphragmatic hernias are very uncommon (affecting only 12-15 babies born each year in the UK), and that the chances of survival depend on how developed their organs are and how quickly they get surgery. We found out that Charlie actually had only had 20% chance of survival. We still feel incredibly lucky.
Some families are not so lucky, but how many more babies would not get taken home if the care in this country didn’t meet the standards we have set ourselves? Surely it is obvious that we are putting babies’ lives at risk if we cut the nursing care they are given. Shouldn’t all babies be given the best chance of survival?
I have only just been made aware of the work done by the charity Bliss, but it is to be my new favourite charity. It is a great cause.