A&E at Easter

Yesterday found us back in hospital again so I just wanted to tell everyone that Gwennie is doing ok, enjoying some ‘wafting of oxygen’. Mainly I wanted to share a little bit of what happened today (because who doesn’t love a good dit about the NHS).

So Gwennie has lung disease & after her last ‘episode’ is somewhat more fragile. Yesterday morning (after a long night of coughing & higher rates of breathing) I called 111 to get Gwennie an out of hours Doctors appointment. Lovely person on the phone who took all the details & with it confirmed that we didn’t need an ambulace (she was still happily watching Cinderella so that counts as non-emergency for Mummy) & if I was happy she’d get a medic to call back to go in more detail within the hour. If she got worse in the meantime call 999. So phone down & walk to put the kettle on. Oh my god. Literally 2 minutes later a paramedic has called me back!! No tea! We went through her long medical history & with me very politely saying we needed a GP rather than minor units she asked if I’d like to go straight to A&E. no no I said. If we can get a Doctor’s appointment in the next few hours that’ll be fine, as we just need someone to check her chest for a crackle. Ok she says and books me in. Doctor will be at Moreton cottage hospital for 10 & will see you then. It was 0920. Golly, good job the ‘incase’ bag was already packed! 10am, GP was running late, (v serious alarm going off on Minors unit). 10 minutes later he’s with us apologising for the delay (personally I’m never quite sure why people apologise for doing their job – but then I guess we are British). After lots of talking & examining he decided that her oxygen saturation levels were just not quite good enough to be sure. So he called the on call Pediatrician at the JR hospital. Quick chat between them & it’s decided the JR want to see her. We’re happy to make our own way there, so the GP prints off some notes for us & tells us to call him if we have any problems at all. Forty minutes later we arrive at the JR. Main Reception booked us in straight away, no queue, no sitting around. Round to children’s A&E, arrive at the reception, greeted with ‘ah we’ve been expecting you’. Taken straight into a side room. At this point monkey is getting ‘pretty upset’ as she’s feeling tired, pants & breathing is a little bit harder work than normal. ‘Is there anything she loves that will help settle her? I’m asked’. Don’t suppose you have any Disney? Brave or anything similar? 30 seconds later a TV is wheeled in front of her & with Brave on the TV she feels Brave & distracted enough to sit on the bed rather than clinging crying to mummy. Meanwhile her nurse starts taking observations & I’m asked if I’ve had a cup of tea yet today? Well.. now that you mention it.. 2 minutes later – tea! In a mug! So now I get to wait around & relax with my tea I’m thinking… nope. In comes the doctor, to give Gwennie a full once over. So in the space of 20 minutes of having walked into A&E we have a treatment plan, she’s on her first nebuliser, we know we’re being admitted, she’s relaxing because not only is getting to watch Brave but every nurse, play specialist & doctor that has been to see her has spoken to her & let her play with their stethoscope, & her mummy is more relaxed because she has a cup of tea. Fast forward to now & I’ve spent the night on a put up bed next to her. Excellent. She’s hysterical when she has a nebuliser so much easier for Mummy to be the bad guy & hold her for it so she’s at least calmer, the Nurse then gets to be the good guy who she’s not scared of. If she was sick at home I would have slept even less anyway as I’d be worried she wasn’t breathing! I am shattered – yes, but so is every other mummy & daddy on these wards trying to settle their child & get them better.

Since coming to the ward she’s been seen by a consultant, 2 Registrar’s & has had a very sweet male SHO keeping a close eye on her.

So why am I telling you all this? Because it’s Easter. Because it’s a Bank Holiday. And because I’m fed up with people complaining about the NHS. I’m tired of people saying that they don’t work 7 days. Because they do & they work fricking hard. Yes sometimes you can get annoyed by someone not seeming to be interested, & yes there are some not so good nurses & doctors out there, but then you get that in every field of work & these people are working to make people’s lives better!

I think they’re pretty awesome as when things are serious they’re the ones that step up. You need to breathe to live (a fact which is often lost on my beloved daughter) so when a child comes in with a respiratory problem they are all over it. Without a doubt the only reason my daughter breathes is because of the NHS & the people in it, who not only work 7 days, but will also make a mum a cup of tea rather than themselves if they have a minute. Soap box off,

 

I do have 2 tiny suggestions for improvement though…

  1. Please please can we have no spill coffee cups for the Childrens Wards?! (I understand kids try & burn themselves but the parents in here are desperate for that fix!)
  2. Can every Nurse be given a light up Olaf on completion of training please – they’re amazing at distracting kids from procedures!

Dear Friend. I’m sorry it’s been a while.

A while ago a friend told me that she felt that I only spoke to her when I needed something, was busy with my busy social life and other friends and that I didn’t appreciate how difficult her life. At the time I couldn’t see what she meant and I have tried to see what she meant. The problem is, it’s probably made me worse now. My ice queen exterior has always been a bit of a joke – and it is funny. Nothing like a good ice maiden, stiff upper lip drinking her tea. But the truth is, I’m not quite the ice maiden I was. Last year, with Gwen being ill so much, I’d started to keep things to myself more. I didn’t want to be that person that only talked about their child. I can remember consciously reminding myself at the start of conversations to ask in detail how someone was, what they’d been up to – hell, even what they thought about the weather, Bake Off, dare I mention – Brexit. Then when someone asked how I was I’d just say ‘ok. You know.’  I was trying so hard not to lean on other people, not to take advantage, that I just stopped talking. Last year was a s*** year. Let’s face it, not many people had a good one. We’re all living in the hope that 2017 will be the year. Less than 3 months in and personally, I’m now hoping 2018 is the year it all comes good, for us and friends.

Despite my attempt at University Life (clearly Gwendolyn had other ideas), this year so far has seen us at home, not able to go to nursery, university, soft play – swimming’s not even worth it now as she starts shivering after 10 minutes (& nobody likes all that admin for just 10 minutes). Gwendolyn received her cerebral palsy diagnosis, a quick x-ray showed that her lungs have now gone back several steps & now we might have a cardiac problem too. But. This post isn’t about me. It’s about you. Which is why I didn’t answer your text. I wanted to be positive about something. So as I am not blessed with healing hands or a magic wand (where’s Helena B-Carter when you need her) I made a princess dress for Gwennie and in the 15 minutes she laughed that day I took a video so I could share it as something happy and positive for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, I have so much to be thankful for, and I really am. I have amazing friends (even if sometimes we all forget it for a bit), oh my god the healthcare & support Gwen is getting from the NHS right now, is just incredible – and extra bonus – one of her doctors is pretty easy on the eye… Gwendolyn’s alive and today we’re not in hospital, somewhere in the world I have a pretty awesome husband (not that I’ll tell him that too often as his ego’s big enough 😉 ).

 

So why didn’t I text you last week? Well it’s a pretty bad excuse. Gwen has a cold. I feel like one of those parents writing a note to teacher because Jonny got a cold on Wednesday so couldn’t come in (although technically Jonny, being a boy/man, would have had man-flu rather than a cold which is serious stuff.) Why is that my excuse? Well. I have a guilty secret. I keep a ‘go-bag’ under my bed. A go-bag? What on earth?! I hear you cry. Well it basically contains everything I need to get me & Gwen through 48 hours in hospital (I went for 48 hours as a lady should always keep enough spare clean underwear for such an occasion in case you ever got run over). And anyone that has spent any time in A&E or a hospital ward knows that supplies are vital for your sanity. Nine days ago my go-bag went from under the bed to the front seat of my car. It’s still there. That’s how seriously I take a cold in this household – because we all know what happened with the last one! Last week started with me at the dentist with tooth ache (turns out I’ve been grinding my teeth & the dentist told me to relax and avoid stress – clearly a comedienne in her spare time) and other than that, the only person I saw to speak to, was Gwen’s doctor (easy on the eye one so every cloud..). I’ve not slept properly in over a week. This is either I’m worried because the snot filled snoring has stopped from the room next door, or she’s crying because she feels pants and can’t get to snot-filled snoring stage. So to get to the point, last week I could have called you, I could have sent you a message. But I didn’t because I didn’t have anything positive to say. I could say you looked awesome in that Instagram picture. But the truth is, I know sometimes you feel rubbish and you’re not happy, and I wish I could wave a magic wand for you. But as I can’t, please bear in mind, I envy you. I completely & utterly envy you. I think you’re one of the luckiest people out there. I wouldn’t swap with you, mainly, because at heart I’m a soppy mum who’s besotted with her daughter, but I thought you should know. I think, not only are you a pretty cool person, but I think you have a pretty awesome life. What you probably don’t know is why I think your life is awesome. It’s not because you can go out when you want, do what you want, drink what you want, or because of your ability to drink wine & eat chocolate & not gain a pound. It’ s because you’re not afraid. Because to me you don’t have anything to be afraid of.

 

So I just wanted to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m not a better friend. I’m sorry I don’t phone or text every week. I’m sorry it takes a couple of hours to reply sometimes. Just because you don’t hear from me, doesn’t mean I’m not thinking of you, wondering what you’re up to, caring & worrying about you.

Please understand, that sometimes, I’m just waiting that little bit longer so that I can find something positive and upbeat to say. Sometimes I’m busy on my latest effort to entertain my brain or bring a smile to Gwennies face. And sometimes. Sometimes, it’s simply because I’m sat next to her bed, holding her hand – just for a little bit longer. Just incase…

 

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Happy New Year to all – reasons to be cheerful

As 2016 draws to a close, everyone is talking about what a horrific year it has been and how many losses everyone has suffered. It has truly been an awful year for many of our friends and family.  Just within our family we’ve lost 3 family members physically, watched as my mother broke her back and then nearly lost her. Psychologically we’ve watched as we’ve lost other friends and family to depression or upset. Jon spent 5 months away from us deployed. Then the worst for us was, when we nearly lost Gwendolyn in December as we watched her lungs collapse and her back on 100%  O2 and hearing the words ‘we don’t know what to do’ from her Doctors.  I’ve now had to suspend my studies at Oxford as Gwendolyn’s lungs are too fragile for nursery and her immune system wiped out. And that’s just us! Not even touching on wider politics or personalities!

But today, when we were talking about what the end of 2016 might mean, I started to list all the positives because I refuse to believe that 2016 could only be a negative year – written off and sent to the back of the wardrobe.

So as many people celebrate 2016 being done and finished and wanting to forget it, we’ll also be raising a glass to be thankful for 2016 as it’s all the horrible times that have made us who we are, whether people like it or not.

2016 Reasons to be cheerful:

Flower Girl

  1. Gwendolyn lived!
  2. We watched as new friends made in PICU watched their own children recover.
  3. My best friend got married and Gwendles got to be flower girl!
  4. We visited the Falklands to see Daddy and Gwendles got to have her first trip in a helicopter and see wild penguins.
  5. Gwendles & I got to visit Canada to see Laura which was amazing (future lifeguard water baby in the making).
  6. Jon was promoted so we’re able to stay in our new cottage with all 3 of us living together for another 2 years.
  7. Another pair of really good friends got married (and in Westminster Abbey so very cool)
  8. I graduated from the Open University with a BSc Honours.
  9. Jon got his civilian flying licence.
  10. I got into Oxford (big yay!!) and successfully
    completed the first term – making some incredible friends on the way.
  11. Every step of the way this year, with every ‘step backwards’ or difficulty we’ve had,
    we’ve seen what amazing and incredible friends we have.
  12. I learnt to knit. (& Jon crochet but not sure if that’s a positive thing yet…)
  13. Some very good friends got engaged!
  14. We’ve gained a new family member!
  15. Lots of amazing things that will happen to us and friends in 2017 will have started in 2016.
  16. And because it needs to be listed twice… a month ago we thought we were losing our daughter BUT we DIDN’T and she was home for Christmas.

 

I hope everyone manages to find a reason to celebrate this year because this year is what will make next
year even better 😉  And let’s face it, we’re all probably due a lottery win now… (Apart from Andy Murray maybe as he’s had a pretty awesome year).

Happy New Year Everyone xxx

 

Soundless Crying

Next on my list to buy the PICU are more kids single cotton sheets and of the ‘non pink’ variety. Sounds like a daft thing to be considering at this point of intensive care but even if I can’t get them in time for Gwendolyn it’d be nice for the other kids.

PICU parents feel helpless. As parents we’re used to chasing around after our child, feeding them up, wiping the snot from their noses, entertaining them with activities and tasks. In PICU we’re limited to reading out loud to them, holding hands and helping the nurses giving them a wash down while they hold all the breathing tubes and you have to avoid the lines tapped into every leg, arm and over the body.

Yesterday Gwendolyn’s sedations were weaned as they needed her to cough herself. Whilst lovely to see her eyes open at times it led to the most heart-breaking moment. Crying noiselessly is just heart-breaking as you see tears rolling down their face. Trying to hold her hand and stroke her hair to soothe her when i know that all she wants is to be held and I can’t because of all the tubes and wires helping her to breathe. I am so happy that she’s improved enough to be weaned off the sedation for a few hours but the soundless crying is definitely one of the hardest things I’ve had to watch whilst here. Buying new sheets seems daft – but its something to do, to feel as if I can make her more comfortable, especially if I find some non pink ones!

A price on life…

 

All day – scrap that – all week I’ve been receiving emails about Black Friday coming and all the money saving deals available. Today during my fresh air break into town, shoppers were everywhere and even darting out in front of ambulances in-case their shopping was delayed a fraction of a minute. It made me think – are we really that insensitive to life itself now and so possession focussed that we have almost come to the point of putting a price on life?

 

This morning I walked onto the ward to see a tank of nitric oxide next to Gwendolyn. This is not good. For fellow preemie/PICU parents they’ll know that sense of dread when they see it. For everyone else it basically means 100% of oxygen down a tube isn’t enough to keep her going now. She’s that poorly. It means things are bad. A quick google online tells me that it roughly costs around £26 per hour to use this on her. The 10ml specialist drug they used on her lungs this morning to try and clear them costs around £20. Did the doctors or nurse quibble over using it on her? Did they count their budgets first? No. They fix lives and they’re desperately trying to fix and save my baby girls life.

 

The black Friday emails – they make me sad because the only thing I see that is black about tomorrow, ( if last year is anything to go by) is that people will trample on each other to save £25 on a TV (also the running cost of my room in the hospital so I can be a short run away from her). It was named black because of the violence of shoppers, yet up and down the country tomorrow it will be black for a different reason for little families sat in NICU’s & PICU’s up and down the country. Black because they would give every penny and possession they had to help their doctor and nurse make their child better.

 

I’ll be hoping that it’s not so black for all our parents tomorrow. Fingers and toes crossed.

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A PICU bedside…

Today was the first day I actually cried and it was because she opened her eyes. Day 10 in hospital and they’ve reduced her sedation so that she can try & cough a bit to help loosen the secretions in her chest in a way physio just can’t. I know she’s sedated and on medications that most drug addicts would love to get their hands on but when she looked at me she was soundlessly crying and trying to move. Not easy to do when you’re on a ventilator.

 

I know we’ve been here before, ventilator keeping her breathing but this time it’s harder. This time she’s not a little baby that doesn’t know any better and simply accepts a breathing tube. This time she’s a little person who doesn’t understand why she’s all foggy, or why a machine is helping her to breathe and most of all – she doesn’t understand why when she reaches out her mummy can’t cwtch her.

 

Last Monday, almost 2 years to the day since Gwendolyn was discharged from the Neonatal unit – she was being rushed to A&E with difficulties with her breathing. Rapidly admitted to one of the wards and placed on oxygen, we thought that they’d caught the chest infection in time preventing the pneumonia. Then not long after, the two words dreaded by preemie parents – RSV positive. Another 48 hours would see us in the PICU as her oxygen need increased & increased. Yesterday I allowed myself to hope we’d started to turn a corner as she seemed more stable and her secondary chest infection had cleared but now a partially collapsed lung is causing problems with her oxygenation as well and as I write this they’re trying something else to help the lung.

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I never thought I’d say it but thankfully they’re sedating her more so that she stays asleep for this – as I can’t face her looking at me like that again with her eyes so hazy but sad. In the meantime.. back to sitting by her bed. I’ve even tried to learn to knit this time to pass the time!

Helping Babies – One challenge at a time!

So being that I love to keep myself moderately busy – ok ridiculously busy. I decided earlier in the year that I wanted to raise money for Bliss and SSNAP (the John Radcliffe baby unit) & came up with the silly idea of doing a triathlon.  But being that I like to do things a little differently (or because I’m insane if you ask the people that know me well!) I thought that just a triathlon wasn’t hard enough so we’d make it a 179 mile triathlon along Offa’s Dyke which has a ridiculous number of hills involved. Oh & we’re only giving ourselves 6 days to do it. And we’ll be camping (because having a good nights sleep in-between would just make it too easy!).  I’m hoping that if I can show a fraction of Gwendolyn’s determination we’ll complete it all on time, without breaking ourselves (I’m slightly dubious about this one) and raise a lot of money for both charities to help support other parents that are going through what we went through & to help provide much needed equipment for the baby unit.

Jon & Gwendolyn will be support team (I think a lot of the funny updates will mainly be about Jon coping with moving the tent, looking after Gwendolyn & both dogs) and my brother, Robert, has been roped in to run it with me! I’ve spent the last 4 months training whenever I can, running with Gwendolyn (who thinks watching me push her uphill is hilarious) Gwen laughing - trg

So please if you have 2 minutes, have a look at our fundraising page and if you can spare just a few pennies it will go a long way to helping parents and poorly babies alike. In the meantime I will try & provide entertainment in the form of trying to complete 179 miles in one piece!!! http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SomeoneSpecial/GwendolynsChallenge

Jon & Gwendles Uniform

My very smart looking support team (pre challenge of course)!

Gwendolyn giving me a hand with my training

Gwendolyn giving me a hand with my training

How do you say Goodbye?

First of all sorry in the delay in the story continuation.. life just seemed to get in the way. But then given the title of this part of our story that’s an incredibly good thing.

When we left off Gwendolyn had just had an ‘exciting’ ambulance ride back to the JR after being in Southampton for her surgery. We’d gone home for a couple of hours that night to mainly shower, change our clothes & try & take a deep breath. The next day her blood pressure had improved but her lungs were inflamed from surgery & she was struggling with her oxygenation even whilst ventilated.  Over the next 2 days she got worse & worse & we found ourselves spending every waking minute at the hospital. The poor doggies only saw us to sleep, although I think they got spoilt rotten by our local friends!

Morning of Sunday 3rd August she was on 100% of any machine she could be hooked up to to try & help her get enough oxygen.  The Doctors & Nurses were constantly trying to think of anything at all they could do to help her or make her more comfortable. I actually felt guilty as I could see how much they were investing in her physically & emotionally& were doing everything they could think of to try & give her time to recover from the surgery.  With nothing else left to try the decision was made to start her on a course of steroids & more diuretics but we were told to prepare ourselves. Watching her saturation levels on the monitors gradually dropping lower & the levels we were willing to accept dropping lower & lower, I think we’d begun to think to ourselves that maybe we need to start preparing ourselves. Having seen so many other parents leaving the ward to call family & friends to ask them to come & say goodbye, I was now the one putting on a brave face on for the other parents on the Unit as I headed out to make some phonecalls.

Within a couple of hours of the phone-call our closest friends had rushed to be by our sides. Now all of a sudden here we were being the parents with the screens around the incubator. Every kind of emotion goes through you by I actually felt guilty. Part of me hadn’t & wouldn’t accept that we were saying goodbye so I felt unfair. Unfair on the nurses looking after us as Gwendolyn’s needs increased. Unfair on the other parents who were trying to be optimistic about their own babies. And most of all guilty about having to ask people that we were so close to to come & say goodbye, knowing that they would never be able to forget being in that ICU to see such a helpless tiny baby.

That night (day 29) Gwendolyn had her first pneumothorax.  The team sprang into action around her, inserted a chest drain & managed to stabilise her as best we could.

Day 30. 4th August.

Our parents arrived that morning to see her & we took it in turns to take them in. We both seemed to go into practical mode, being factual & trying to keep our parents calm in that situation.  It was when I took my brother in last, that it happened. Everyone else was sat outside the ward in the family room waiting to go to coffee.  Rob & I had been stood there for maybe 1 minute before I saw her sats drop significantly. Her nurse, Emma, was immediately doing suction to try and help her.  I could see from the looks on their faces that this wasn’t the same as the other periods of suction over the past couple of days.  I turned to Rob & calmly told him that we should leave them to it as it would take a while. As I ushered him out the door she crashed.  I have no idea how I stayed so calm. I asked Jon to get everyone together & point them in the direction of the coffee shop but that I was going to stay there & he should come back once the family were off the ward.  Even with the crash alarm sounding & our consultant Anna running down the corridor, Jon & our families had no idea it was for Gwendolyn. I think I stayed calm because I’d kept saying to myself that if Gwendolyn felt me panic, she’d panic. She was hardly aware of what was going on around her because she was on so much pain relief & sedated, but I felt like the only thing I could do to reassure her was to stay calm for her.

Jon came back and we waited in the family room for news, supplied with biscuits & tea from Rachel’s stash. After a short while one of the girls came out & told us that they had her back but they were in the process of inserting another chest drain as she’d had another pneumothorax. Eventually, our Anna & Emma came & joined us.  It was the second time that day they’d had to tell us that she wasn’t good but this time this conversation was the one that no parent wants to hear.  Her saturation levels could be raised above the low 70’s at this point & there was nothing else to do. Any parent that has ever had to agree to a do not resuscitate will know how it suddenly hits you that there might not be a way out of this. This might actually be it. Anna & Emma were amazing.  I wanted to hug them as I could see how this was affecting them. But now we had to decide how to say goodbye.  How do you say goodbye? How can a parent ever prepare themselves to do that. After talking at length to Emma & Anna we decided to have her blessed that afternoon. We thought that it would be to do it rather than regret not doing it.

The ICU chaplain was with us within the hour.  He was very gentle with us & talked to us & Gwendolyn.  One difficult question was whether to take photos. Emma took photos & I’m so glad she did as looking back now it was a moment that needed to be marked.

Her whole time in the ICU up to this point Gwendolyn had been a pickle & this was definitely not any different. In true Gwendolyn form about half way through the blessing she made sure she had everyones attention. Her sats dropped & dropped & I could see the nurses poised to rush in. But it seems that once she had the attention she was happy as her numbers improved ever so slightly as the chaplain finished talking.  Well that or she had her own opinion on blessings!!

blessing

 

I spent the rest of the afternoon holding her on a pillow on my lap or holding onto her hand.  She made it to the evening.  The staff must have known that we’d never leave that night as they made up 2 beds in a room next to the ward rather than us crossing over the road to the welfare house. I think at about 0230am they convinced us to try & sleep. I lasted until about 6am before I sneaked back onto the ward. She’d done it.  She’d made it through the night.

Blue light Surgery

Until this point I’d felt like I’d kept things together.  Even when we were being told she had such small odds of surviving pregnancy I felt like everything was going to be ok.  It was at this point that I started to have that knot you get at the bottom of your stomach.

There wasn’t any parent accommodation available at Southampton hospital so one the drive down we were desperately trying to find somewhere to stay.  Success with the premier inn.  Southampton is a really good hospital but so completely different to what we were used to.  We felt like a fish out of water.  They have a lot of older surgery babies in their ICU so we could hear babies crying which you didn’t get at the JR as they all tended to be ventilated.  Gwen seemed to have coped with the transport relatively well so after checking on her we left her for the night and went for a big glass of wine.

Day 25 –  Surgery day.  after having a day for them to get used to Gwen, run tests on her and make sure she was strong enough for the surgery.  So surgery day.  Thankfully all done on the ICU ward and nice and early in the morning.  When he came out to tell us that the surgery had gone well I’ve never been so relieved.  She was still paralysed from the surgery & they would keep her that way until she’d been transported home and she was on medication to ensure her blood pressure remained high enough after the ligation but she was ok.  She was a stubborn little madam even then as later that afternoon she was already trying to move despite the paralytics.  The JR didn’t have any empty beds in the ICU so we were in for another stay.

Day 26 – Helen and Claire arrived in the neonate ambulance to take us home.  I could have hugged them.  Funny how you start thinking of the JR as home.  Gwen’s oxygen requirement increased a bit when she was moved into the travel incubator but she seemed to settle a bit after a while. They said we could head off now and they would meet us at the hospital.  We headed back to the car to drive north leaving Gwen in their incredibly capable hands. Not long after they called to say they were waiting a bit longer before leaving as Gwendolyn’s blood pressure was a bit low so needed some more medication.  Around 1830 they left Southampton hospital.  It was getting to late evening so Jon and I picked some fish & chips (excellent chippy in Headington) & went to sit on the bench outside maternity.  Not long after my life went into slow motion.  Now there are 2 neonatal ambulances at the JR but when I saw one blue lighting up to the door I just knew it was Gwendolyn.  We headed over there & they were so so calm taking her out of the ambulance & shepherding us in.  On the journey back Gwendolyn’s blood pressure had crashed, her heart rate had increased tremendously & she had a temperature.  Rather than turn back to Southampton they’d spoken to the consultant at the JR, & they’d made the decision to bring her home & blue light her all the way. When we first went in we sat in the ICU waiting area while they assessed her but it was literally less than a minute before one of her doctors was coming out to get us so we could see her.  I then saw the most incredible people spring into action, all over this tiny little baby.  In my time in the RAF I’ve seen some incredible teamwork in some horrible situations but this was on a different scale.. Gwen had severe hypotension and they were trying to work out why with the medication she was on, whilst treating her for the signs of infection she was showing.  Her blood pressure was so low it couldn’t be read with a cuff, only with an arterial line. They talked us through it all and I think by then, knowing us, they knew understanding the medical side would help us process what was going on. It looked like it might be sepsis and they were having to place a new long line into her scalp. By the time we left that night her blood pressure was coming up again.  I think that night we went home for about 4 hours sleep and a shower & change of clothes. Just to try and prepare ourselves for what might happen the next day.

26 weeks – feels like labour

26 weeks.

26 weeks. Wahoo. Celebration time. Except I’m down on delivery suite so maybe less of a celebration. It does now mean that they can monitor the baby’s heartbeat on the electronic fetal monitor now. Last night the bleeding got so bad they moved me down to delivery suite, I did bargain for 5 minutes for a shower though before I got dressed. Jon came in later & has been trying to distract me all day with Netflix. Mc Dreamy came & did another scan late afternoon & everything still looks good. Thankfully the bleeding has pretty much stopped so I don’t have to be nil by mouth anymore & if I stay the same for the next few hours I can go back upstairs. Gail (best midwife in the world & hilarious) brought me some toast – wahoo – & she even took me off the monitor for a while so I could walk (read pace) around the room! Then shift change over happened…. New midwife (perfectly nice), new doctors (couldn’t tell you if they were nice as I never saw them) & I’m told that there’s a new decision – I can’t go back upstairs as they want to keep me down here & put me on observation ward. Harrumph. Apparently I will get dinner when I go round to observation ward.

Things did not get better overnight. Despite my fetal medicine specialist saying I could go up to my own room again if the 2200 CGI Doppler was good (it was) I wasn’t allowed. The night shift came on & decided I was nil by mouth again – they quite literally took the cheese sandwich out of my mouth. No food so next best thing – paracetamol – as my back was a bit sore from lying down most of the day for monitoring. Apparently me being uncomfortable meant I had to go back on the monitor according to the night shift. All night. Every time I tried to go to sleep or moved and it couldn’t read the heartbeat, the midwife would come back in and tighten up the straps. Anyone that knows me, knows I’m grumpy without food but having had about 5 hours sleep since Monday night, 2 pieces of toast and half a cheese sandwich (well maybe 4 mouthfuls before she grabbed it) I was as grouchy as they come! At 0635 they finally let me come off the machine, well I say that, but I think the death stare of a hungry tired woman convinced the midwife!! So I’m now off for a shower to try and feel half human again.

What followed that day was both scary & painful, and in my head hilariously funny. My shower hadn’t done anything to ease my back, which I thought was a result of being laid down in one position most of the day and all night, but as I sat in my room it got worse and worse. Yep you know what’s coming!!! I think subconsciously I did too as by 0730 I was encouraging Jon to drive in early. When he arrived he found me pacing the room to ease my back. Soon the backache was coming in strong waves rather than constant so the midwife went to get a doctor. 2cm dilated! Round to delivery we went and thank god it was Gail again. That day was one of the most surreal I’ve ever had. Like an out of body experience kind of day. I won’t share all the details with you but I did learn a few things:

  • I am hilarious on gas and air. Seriously. A comedy genius. I’m sure Jon agrees deep down…
  • I have public peeing issues. Yes I know a delivery room isn’t public but I couldn’t bring myself to pee lying down on a bed into a cardboard bowl. I mean where’s the dignity in that?!?!
  • You can get sick really really quick. Seriously. Mega quick.

So there I was, telling some amazing jokes in between contractions, Mc Dreamy has been and done another scan and baby’s not quite in the right position. So plan is they’re going to give it a bit more time to see if baby moves round as labour progresses, but I need to prepare myself for a c-section. I think at this point I even called McDreamy, McDreamy to his face or maybe even upgraded him to McSteamy… Needless to say I’d be mortified if I saw him now. Anyway, I digress.. mmm.. McSteamy..

So we have a chat with the neonate registrar about what they’re going to do with baby post delivery/ c-section, the anaesthetist about sticking a giant needle in my back (yep still wasn’t keen on that one) and the obstetrician. Then it literally was a case of everything changed in a second. One second I was happy and laughing and joking and the next I was shivering uncontrollably and felt… well I can’t really describe how I felt. I imagine it’s a bit like how men think they feel with man flu – but way worse. Maybe a combination of having man-flu and how I imagine anthrax poisoning feels. So we’ll call it manthrax for giggles. It was grown up teeth chattering, shivering and shaking uncontrollably and then it all starts getting a bit hazy. I vaguely remember blankets being piled on me, the doctor holding some big yellow bit of paper for me to sign and then the next thing I knew I was being wheeled into the operating room. Jon would tell me the next day that it was as if I went into shut down mode (that manthrax is bad). He said that in the short time it took to wheel me across the corridor into theatre my temperature jumped up 5°C. I remember the pain of contractions fighting the uncontrollable shivering, vomiting on someone’s shoes (very sorry whichever doctor/nurse that was), lots of people talking around me, feeling pretty naked, and hearing someone saying something about not being able to get a line into me as I was shutting down. Last thing I remember is the senior anaesthetist telling me it was too late for an epidural, they had to put me under a general right now. I don’t think I even had the nous to crack a joke.

I would know nothing until later that day when I woke up in a cloud of morphine. Poor Jon. He told me he found himself stood in a pair of scrubs alone in the delivery room having been told he couldn’t go in to watch as they thought I had sepsis. He told me afterwards that at that point he was now worried he was going to lose both of us.