In response to our recent appeal for stories to help us celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the National Health Service, Catherine Pryce, a Respiratory Engagement Specialist for Teva, sent in the following cryptic sentence: “Baby due in January – oh no, he’ll be here for Christmas.” We had to know more. This is her story.
“I was pregnant for the first time, heading towards my due date of January 2012 and lucky enough to be really enjoying my pregnancy. Everything had been going very smoothly. I was attending my routine midwife checks. It was a really comfortable, enjoyable pregnancy. Then, suddenly, at 34 weeks, my blood pressure shot up and the midwife decided I should go in for monitoring and assessment at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.
When I went in, they put all the monitoring equipment on me and told me that my blood pressure would need further assessment. That’s when they said, ‘Can anyone bring you a bag?’ From a routine checkup I ended up staying in hospital for a week.
I didn’t really know much about the dangers of high blood pressure in pregnancy, but it can lead into pre-eclampsia, which can result in damage to both the mother and the unborn baby. The only way to cure pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby.
Even though they were telling me all this, I kept saying, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine’, because I didn’t want to be a burden on the NHS. I kept thinking that someone must need help more than me. I didn’t want to take up a bed or waste their time.
After one week they were confident they had the right dose of drugs to bring my blood pressure down. Because you’re pregnant, they monitor everything very closely to get the dose right. That was my first experience of maternity care in an NHS hospital, how nothing is too much trouble. They come round and see you every few hours, and they feed you three meals a day – whether you like it or not!
After that week, I came home, but I remained under the watchful eye of the NHS staff at the hospital. I was called in for more frequent checks because I’d been flagged up as a risk. I felt so well cared for.
The action plan was to get me as close to 37 weeks as possible, at which point the baby is no longer classed as premature. They said to me, ‘Let’s keep your son in for as long as possible, but be prepared. He could be early.’
“I said, ‘But it’s Christmas!’ They replied: ‘They come when they come.’
That was a shock because I was hosting Christmas for all the in-laws. Everyone was coming to us because we didn’t want to travel. “I was in more or less constant care by this stage, but then as the weeks went on towards the due date of 9th January, it all spiked up again. So they said, ‘Let’s go for it!
I was in favour of giving it more time, but I think you learn to listen to the professionals. Having spent so long working on the other side and never as a patient, I was quite resistant at first and giving myself over to their care took some adjusting to.
It was 72 hours from being induced before I finally held Joseph in my arms, on 22nd December 2011. He was very small – 5lb 6oz (2.54kg) and nearly three weeks early. After he was born they kept me in for another week to monitor us both.
This meant that I spent Christmas in hospital, and it was so touching. On Christmas Eve, volunteers come in to sing carols on the ward. It was an emotional time for everyone on the ward.
The staff do everything they can to make you feel like you’re not missing out on Christmas at home. On Christmas morning each mother and baby receive a present each. The whole ward was in floods of tears.
During the week I was in hospital, everyone was very supportive. I’ve always been a huge champion of the NHS, but this experience has given me even more of an appreciation of what they do.
It’s not only the nurses and doctors, but also the lady who comes in with the meals, the person who whistles while emptying the bins. It takes a lot of people to make things happen.
I know everyone has their own opinion of the NHS but my time in their care was extremely positive and I witnessed a whole team working together and genuinely providing a National Health Service to be proud of. Thank you to everyone at the QMC, Nottingham.”