A FERMANAGH family has spoken of their horrific, and ultimately dangerous, experience of having to travel to Altnagelvin Hospital for an emergency caesarean section.
Indeed, the couple believe the rapid and very bumpy journey to Derry during labour contributed to a life-threatening condition their son suffered at birth, which saw him spending ten days in the Altnagelvin neonatal ICU.
Thankfully, they are back home with their beautiful, bouncing baby boy who is blissfully unaware of the stress his parents have been through. They now want to share their story to let others know what many Fermanagh mothers and babies are facing.
Having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes during her pregnancy, at around 32 weeks the mother experienced a couple of issues, including reacting badly to her diabetes medication, which left her unable to eat, and another issue that required her to be admitted to the SWAH for a couple of days due to an infection risk.
When she was discharged from the SWAH she was told to stay alert and come back if needed.
Then, at just over 37 weeks, she woke up one morning and could no longer feel her baby moving.
“Before that, the nurse and the doctor had said if I had problem with the baby not moving after that just come back, come back straight away,” she told the Herald.
However, when she called the SWAH she was told by a midwife they were not allowed to listen to her baby’s heartbeat, so no one was able to help her.
“They said that once she was on insulin, they weren’t allowed to do it,” her husband recalled.
“That day is still in my head – just go in and listen, that’s all. Five minutes,” said the mother. “If there was some reason I could understand the reason.”
Thankfully, after much worry and a lot of praying, the mother felt her baby move again later that day.
At just over 38 weeks, her care was transferred to a consultant in Altnagelvin, and the couple were told a c-section would be scheduled.
The mother said from the outset she felt there had been poor communication between the SWAH and Derry doctors, with the couple given conflicting information on the scheduling of the c-section.
In the end, the planned procedure went out the window though, and two days before she was due to be taken into Altnagelvin, the mother went into labour at around 3am while at home in Fermanagh.
The couple already had a toddler, but were lucky to have a willing granddad ready to step in to baby sit in the middle of the night. He would end up looking after the child for over a week to come.
Recalling a terrifying two-hour, very bumpy journey while in labour, the mother said, “On the way to Derry I was praying a lot, for him to just keeping moving. He was so quiet and had stopped moving. I just kept talking to him the whole way for two hours.”
With her planned c-section having become an emergency section, her baby was taken to the neonatal ICU not long after delivery. Initially the couple was told it was to check his blood sugar, but his blood sugar had returned to normal quickly, and they were then told he had an infection, though given no details on this.
Four days after their newborn was admitted to the neonatal ICU, they learned from a nurse who read his file he had suffered a condition called aspirated meconium.
This is when a newborn baby breathes in meconium – which is early stool passed by the baby – during labour/delivery. It is one of the leading causes of death among newborns.
The mother told the Herald she had since learned the long, bumpy journey may have caused this. Indeed, if their baby had arrived on the roadside during their journey, without any medical assistance, their story may not have had such a happy outcome. After such a traumatic birth, the mother said things didn’t get any easier during her stay in Altnagelvin, where she said she was made to feel unwelcome after a few days.
“I want to say thank you so much to the nurses in ICU, they fought for me to stay because the baby needed breastfed,” she said.
After being allowed to remain in hospital, the mother said she was no longer given breakfast, and some other nurses shouted at her, leaving her in tears for much of the time. She stressed there were also some lovely staff, though.
Her husband, who said he was lucky enough to have a friend to stay with near Derry during her stay, added, “The staff in the neonatal ICU were all brilliant. Everyone of them, they were all really nice.”
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