Thursday, 5 May 2016

A change of scenery

On Saturday I was admitted to hospital with suspected early pre-eclampsia. Here is how the story unfolded and how I ended up spending our bank holiday weekend as an NHS resident, and what happened next!

Monday 2nd May
I finished a long and difficult night shift on Thursday morning and drove home, exhausted and emotional. I was supposed to be working on Thursday night too but I knew I couldn't take any more and needed the night off, so rang my work place and told them I'd be off. I just didn't feel right, but at 32 weeks pregnant and shattered beyond belief after a 13 hour night I wasn't surprised I didn't feel myself, and off to bed I went. I woke up that afternoon with a headache right across my eyes, tiredness I thought, got up for a few hours to see my wife upon her return from work and went back to bed early that evening. I just couldn't get comfortable no matter what I tried. The bed was too hard, my ribs were aching, the baby was kicking, I felt sick, my back hurt, my head hurt. As a result I didn't sleep much and got up at one point to watch random TV downstairs with a very excited Willow (playtime, Mummy?).

On Friday I had arranged to see my Mum and sister, pretty standard Friday affair for me. But again I just didn't feel right. I presumed the complete exhaustion of my night shifts couples with a terrible night the night before had left me even more exhausted and again I just needed a good sleep. But Friday night was pretty much the same - too hot, sore ribs, racing pulse, am I thirsty? Feel sick, ok I'm gonna be sick, just can't settle. 

Saturday morning rolled around and I felt pretty much the same, so I decided to ring the hospital and ask their advice. I'd had a headache since Thursday that wasn't shifting with any amount of paracetamol or cold therapy, I had this pain in my ribs that wasn't easing, and I just didn't feel myself. The midwife in Triage agreed that is was more likely than not nothing, but she felt I should get checked out just to be sure. 

On arriving in to Triage it was empty - as we are booked with the hospital I worked at for a long time, and given that this was Saturday afternoon, I knew this to be unusual, we had been expecting a long wait. But I was grateful all the same. The senior midwife greeted us and took us through, and asked me to explain why I was there. Going through it all I felt like a fool - it just sounded like late pregnancy normal symptoms to me, and here I was, taking up their time. She said she would do a full antenatal assessment, and as baby hadn't been his usual wriggly self that morning, would monitor him for a while too. First things first - blood pressure. The machine started alarming but I couldn't see the reading. "Is it high?" I asked. "Quite high!" The midwife said. 168/108. "And there's protein in your urine sample", she said. I knew what this meant - pre-eclampsia. "Let's start the fetal monitoring" she said she "I'll
bleep the registrar for a review ASAP."

Once baby had been located and was happily bounding away the Registrar came in to see us and make a plan. After a few more BP readings which were all "quite high" they decided to commence me on blood pressure tablets, admit me to the High Dependency Unit and give me some steroids to help mature baby's lungs, in case he needs to be born earlier than planned.

But following the tablets my blood pressure settled remarkably well. Not enough to be able to go home, but enough to be admitted to the standard antenatal ward. We rang my Mum who made her way over to us, and were taken up to the ward where I have spent the past 48 hours. 

We were incredibly fortunate to be given a large, private ensuite side room. Midwives often joke that we don't get many perks working for the NHS - there's no staff discount, no corporate events, nothing glamorous or exciting, but we do have the ability to care for each other at times like this. So we've been in our own room, and the care from everyone - from the Consultants to the midwives to the people who bring round tea and coffee at regular points, has been absolutely amazing.
Seeing so many friendly, familiar faces was so comforting and reassuring for us both. It really made us glad that despite it not being the loveliest place in the world, we never moved away from our home city of Birmingham and have a local hospital where most of the maternity staff are good friends of Lauren or both of us, as well as having our friends and families a short drive away - it has been a godsend. They have all been incredible. 

Since that episode on Saturday night my blood pressure, although it has been up and down, has never been high enough to need more medication. So the following morning I assumed that I would be going home, as everything had settled back down to normal, and baby had remained his usual happy wriggly self. But the Consultant on the ward round said she wasn't happy for me to just yet, given that things were looking so abnormal just the day before, and would rather I stayed an extra night. Although this really was not the news we wanted to hear, as this weekend we had planned to begin decorating the spare room and getting the house ready for his arrival, we were also very happy to listen to their advice. 

On Monday morning things still looked nice and settled, no more hugely raised blood pressure, baby was fine, all the tests I'd had taken had come back OK, so they were happy for me to go. Before I left they asked for one more urine sample to send off to look again at the protein levels, and they said if it came back high I'd have to be readmitted. But I was quietly confident it would all be ok, and I was really desperate to get home to a bit of normality, to see Willow, and have an evening with my wife. We left hospital about 4pm on bank holiday Monday and spent the evening doing what we do best - having some nice food, watching our favourite TV, and most of all, being in each other's arms.

The plan from here is blood pressure checks every other day with the midwives in the community, and then back to the hospital to see the Consultant next Tuesday. In the meantime, no more work for me, I am officially on maternity leave!

Wednesday 4th May

Unfortunately my time at home didn't last long. I completely forgot I needed to publish this post on Monday night, which I guess means I should now update it to bring it up to date as to where we are now!

I woke up yesterday morning feeling rather peculiar. Not ill, far from it, but I felt happy, peaceful and optimistic. My short stay in hospital had made me realise we still have quite a lot to do to prepare for his arrival, which we had purposefully left until I had finished work, and now here I was, finished! So I got myself up and ready, made an appointment to see the practise nurse to check my blood pressure, and wrote a list of things to do. When the phone rang at about 1pm I assumed it was for them to tell me my urine sample was normal and they'd see me next week, I didn't expect to be told it was showing I had a high level of protein and needed to go back to hospital. 

Cue a frantic half an hour packing a bag, phoning my wife to explain, and then making our way to hospital. Unfortunately there was quite a long wait to be seen in the triage department this time, but we never seem to mind long waits as long as we are together. The midwife who saw us explained that things weren't quite right but they weren't terribly wrong either, so although they wanted to repeat the blood tests again and send off a new urine sample, nobody was particularly concerned with the results. Same routine - blood pressure - high end of normal, blood tests, baby monitoring commenced.  After an hour of heart rate tracing on the little man the midwife came back and then said she would get another opinion, so called the Consultant in. Again, things were not terribly wrong but we're not entirely normal either, so they decided to keep me in hospital again for more observation, and to repeat the heart rate monitoring on baby. This time I was quite sad, another night away from my love, another night in a noisy hospital, another day I was supposed to be enjoying my maternity leave!

Pin cushion!
This morning I saw the Consultant again. My blood tests have come back that were taken yesterday, and unfortunately they confirm a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia. It's not entirely known what causes pre-eclampsia or why some women suffer and others don't, but there are a few known risk factors - first pregnancies, teenage pregnancies, IVF pregnancies and people with s family history are all known to be more at risk. We always knew this but hoped I'd be lucky enough to get away with it!

Unfortunately what this does now mean is that the surveillance on both me and baby steps up a gear, including a continual 24 hours tracing of my blood pressure, which has again stayed relatively normal, twice daily heart rate tracings of baby, daily blood tests and urine screens, and probably more scans to check on our little boy. This can only realistically be facilitated by me staying in hospital, so this is where I'll be for now, either until they are certain things are definitely not getting worse and are happy for me to go home for a night or two, or until they need to deliver him. We have been given an estimate of three weeks, but it could be much sooner.

It has been a whirlwind, but this whole pregnancy has. In the true style of us, we have remained upbeat, optimistic and happy. Today we went for a short walk in the sunshine and admired the beautiful spring blossom, and sat outside at the Costa in the hospital grounds.

No, this wasn't how I planned to spend my maternity leave. No, we are no longer eligible to birth our son at home (A decision we were less sure about as we experience the service more). Yes, we are now facing a very high possibility of a premature baby. But the important thing is - we are going to be parents soon! All of our hoping, dreaming, planning, saving, trips to the clinic, excitement, tears of happiness, suffering with sickness, buying all of his lovely little baby things, every beautiful second,  has lead to this moment. And so we look forward to what the next couple of weeks have in store for us together, knowing whatever happens we will embrace it wholeheartedly.
We may be meeting our son soon! And like everything in life - we look on the bright side. We know, especially Lauren, that birth is completely unpredictable, but you can make that beautiful, special, unique experience your own. We are lucky enough for Lauren to be in a very comfortable place where amazing people, most of whom are her friends, constantly make sure her and our son are healthy and happy. We spend our days wandering around the blossom tree lined hospital grounds or sat outside at Costa in the sunshine, or watching TV in the evenings, or with me at work and Lauren being visited by friends and family. Our amazing family and friends have rallied round to make sure we are prepared for our little ones arrival. Weirdly, these days are the most peaceful we've had in a long time - full of love and lovely people. And we have a healthy son on the way. Despite the circumstances, it's hard to feel anything but so lucky! 


  1. Wow. I feel gogsmacked. What a whirlwind. And how perfectly you both seem to be dealing with it. I'm sending lots and lots of positivity to you both, and to your lovely little boy. I hope hospital doesn't become too much of a pain.

    Oh, and the nursery - we don't plan to decorate ours until a few months after baby's arrival. You have plenty of time :)

  2. Oh my!!! What an eventful time you've both had but let's hope the r&r does you good and your little one will be in your arms when he's ready xx

  3. It's been eventful from the start but I wouldn't expect anything less. I'm staying positive with you both & am sure that meeting your little man will be one of the best experiences of your lives. Sending my love. Xxx


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