You may need to grab a cuppa for this bit as there is a fair old story to tell…We’ll skip all the usual pregnancy detail such as morning sickness, swollen feet & weekly blood pressure checks & get to the nitty gritty (for those of you who don’t know)…
I (Lisa) had been having problems with pregnancy induced raised blood pressure and after a routine check in my local birth centre in Penrith on 7th October found myself being transferred to The Cumberland Infirmary for further checks. This is where the story really started…at this point I was 28 weeks pregnant, so it was necessary to put me on medication to try and stabilise the BP to avoid any further risks and was sent home. I started suffering with a bad head, so booked a check-up the following Monday and carried on with my weekend (a lovely one at that)
Monday came and I popped along to the hospital for my BP check. I felt quite confident as I was on the new medication, however I got the shock of my life when the midwife told me my blood pressure was 170/110 – the highest it had ever been (and as reference a ‘normal’ BP averages 110-130/60-75) Back I went to Carlisle hospital…and there I stayed. I felt really stressed out about the whole situation – I wasn’t prepared or had a bag packed. I run my own marketing business and had to pretty much stop working at that point (I wasn’t going to start any sort of maternity until Christmas!) Luckily for me I have fantastic, understanding clients & a marvellous assistant who has been worth her weight in gold in keeping on top of a few things – particularly the Penrith Winter Festival …Christmas in Penrith will still go ahead – phew!
Anyway, I was trying my best to chill out in my hospital bed, not be tempted by emails & get through the next few days. However, it was at this point when things started taking a bit of a nose dive. New symptoms started presenting themselves…swollen feet, hands and face, problems with my bloods, protein in my urine, more intense headaches and I was told I had signs of pre-eclampsia and that I would not leave hospital without a baby – eek!
The main problem was at 29 weeks baby still has a lot of growing to do; she was also showing small on scans for her gestation and the biggest worry was that the Cumberland Infirmary (although the maternity team & doctors were all amazing) does not have the facilities to properly look after a pre-term baby under 32 weeks. They could deliver me there, but the likelihood was that we’d have to be transferred to a bigger hospital.
The aim was to try and get to 32 weeks, to give baby more time to grow and to stay in Carlisle. However, my blood pressure was all over the place and the doctors were struggling to stabilise it. The platelets in my blood dropped and the protein increased and I was also being monitored on a CTG machine which checks the baby’s heartbeats and movements. I didn’t fully understand what we were looking at, but realised there was something wrong when teams of doctors and consultants kept coming backwards and forwards to look.
Previously I had felt OK – you can’t really tell when you BP is higher than normal, but as the night went on my hands and feet started ballooning, the intensity of the headaches increased and my breathing worsened – so much so I was put on a ventilator. I was hooked up to the CTG for what seemed like hours, my fluids were being monitored and BP taken every half hour or so…and up and up it was going. The hours seemed to tick by and worry started setting in. Eventually about 11pm I told Phil to go home instead of waiting around and to get some sleep as it was going to be a long night.
Stockton – North Tees Hospital
At this point I still wasn’t really too sure what was happening, the consultant and team of doctors then came to see me and made the decision that they needed to transfer me to another hospital, who could cope with a baby so small. It looked like delivery was imminent. I quickly called Phil, but told him to get his head down and come to me first thing, so at least one of us was “with it” and before I knew it my “taxi” a.k.a ambulance had arrived. I was a mess…I was being shipped miles away on my own in the back of an ambulance. The team in Carlisle were amazing cuddling me, reassuring me and helping to cope with what I was facing. Then off I went with my night shift midwife Karen who kept me sane.
So, after a few hours I arrived in Stockton. It was one of those moments where you hide behind jokes and banter, but inside you feel like a rabbit in the headlights terrified, alone and thinking what the **** is happening. I dutifully obliged with anything the midwife wanted, but once again it was hours of being monitored with very little sleep. I was on delivery suite, with what I thought at that point was getting ready to meet my baby.
Morning came and so too did my ‘rock’ Phil. We’ve always said I’m the emotional one in the relationship, whereas he’s very matter of fact, but in this situation that is what I needed – someone to dry my tears, hold me and reassure me. Someone who was probably as frightened as I, but didn’t show it.
We stayed on delivery all day. When the Neonatal team came to visit us twice and we were invited to the special care unit we began mentally preparing ourselves for what was to come. Taking a deep breath and holding each other’s hand tightly we were shown round…inside thinking it was all a bit surreal and surely they didn’t really need to show us round??
Phil once again needed to get home, so my Mam took over…with a usual bag of mum supplies including plenty of crisps and chocolate! Before she arrived I was transferred up to ante natal ward and I can only describe it as ‘left’ to my own devices. One minute my husband and I were preparing for delivery & a premature baby, next I was back to normal???!!! Hours passed and I’d not seen anyone, so once the night shift came on I spoke up…why one minute was I being monitored so closely and told baby was imminent, the next not even having my BP checked!? The midwives at that point started checking me again, but once again I was left feeling very confused…and having to tell them what medication I’d had…I even started taking my own notes as I was getting so confused.
The next morning the consultant came to see me with very different news…I was basically told I didn’t have pre-eclampsia or a high blood pressure and I could go home. WTF!? There are some times in life you need to speak up and be heard and this was one of those moments. I said perhaps it wasn’t the best idea going home after what I’d been told in Carlisle and maybe I should be going back there? Carlisle hospital agreed and I returned there….not by ambulance though, but by ‘Mambulance’. In hindsight what if something had happened…what if I’d had a fit on the journey home? I was rather white during the journey back, but we got back to the Cumberland Infirmary safely – to the astonishment of the team there!
Carlisle part 2 –
It was as if my body knew I had gone back to Carlisle as it wasn’t long before things started playing up again. The team monitored me lots again and I was becoming known by them – the problem patient, the challenge and how do we fix her “what are we going to do with you” – another opportunity to hide behind bravado.
At this stage word was spreading that I was in hospital, but I felt withdrawn, tired, confused, scared and I couldn’t bring myself to reply to messages, talk to people or see visitors. It was not that I didn’t appreciate all the well wishes and kind words from people…it was just that I couldn’t cope with what was happening…how do you explain to people when you don’t know yourself what is happening! baby wasn’t due for another 11 weeks – I wasn’t mentally prepared for it!
I just wanted to go home and be with Phil, lie in my own bed and watch TV…it was like someone heard me and on Saturday 17th I was ‘released’ on the proviso that I took it easy and returned for a check on the Monday and a follow up scan on Thursday. I couldn’t have got out of bed quick enough; Phil & Eve had just left after visiting, but they were soon back to collect me. But guess what my cheeky BP decided to go up again just as we were leaving, so it took about 3 hours to escape.
Chippy tea, a can of San Pelligrino, the sofa and x-factor was called for…within about an hour I was zonko…I could finally snuggle up in bed with Phil on what have now become known as the “bonus nights” On the Sunday I slept until about 11am. I had the worst headache and felt physically exhausted, but so glad to be home.
However, this was short lived. Monday soon approached and I had a gut feeling that it would be a while before I was home again. I was able to pack my own bag, with a vast supply of big knickers, PJs and home comforts and prepared myself as best I could for what was in front of me. Upon arriving at Carlisle I underwent the usual tests I had become accustomed to and guess what…that old BP was 184/110….”here we go again” I joked as I told the midwives I already had my over night bag prepared.
I felt ready this time (as much as I could be)…baby was 30 weeks and I just had 2 to go to make sure I could stay in Carlisle. I was determined to chill out and rest to keep baby cooking. However, it was evident that a pattern started emerging very similar to before and over the next few days the situation became worse. My BP was now getting harder to control, there was increased protein in my urine, platelets in my blood were even lower, my face looked like a hamster and I had to take me wedding rings off as they were getting stuck on my fat swollen hands.
I was becoming part and parcel of the furniture in the ante natal ward and had met most of the midwives, but this was short lived and on Wednesday 21st October the consultants once again made the decision that it was not safe for me to stay at Carlisle hospital and I needed to be moved. I was terrified once again – I didn’t want to be shipped off again only to keep going round in circles, however I was told things had rapidly deteriorated and it would be unsafe for me to stay there. This time a bed came free in Middlesbrough James Cook hospital…only 2 hours from home 😐
So, once again I was taken in an Ambulance to Middlesbrough…this time with blue lights and sirens. That’s when I really began to think oh oh…this really is serious.
Once again Phil was not far behind and arrived shortly after me in delivery suite…armed with my trusty box of man size tissues. I felt quite odd on this occasion, a bit numb that it was happening again and unsettled at the uncertainty of the situation.
We were greeted right away with a visit from the consultant who was very thorough in her questions and examinations…she even took us in the middle of the night to the scan room to undertake a scan on the baby. At 4am we were taken up to ante natal ward and given time to get some sleep.
What stood out at this point was that I was being very closely monitored again, like in Carlisle, however James Cook Is a university hospital and the testing and monitoring increased. This time we were told how severe the situation was and how my symptoms were deteriorating and that as Carlisle had predicted baby was imminent – though every day counted for baby’s growth. Phil decided to head home on Friday night to get a supply of fresh clothes ready for the ride ahead, but we should have known by now that every time he leaves something happens…
After remaining stable all day Friday, things once again took a turn for the worse and the decision was made that I needed to be transferred to Critical Care unit on delivery suite. Upon walking into the room, I was greeted by a team of 5, monitors galore and the realisation that “this was it” – my main concern was Phil wasn’t there, I couldn’t cope without him and at 5am he got the call to start thinking about getting a move on back to Middlesbrough.
What happened next (click here)