“Bliss really helped me and my husband” - Emma’s story

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When Emma's baby boy Campbell was born at 39 weeks, she didn't expect to have a traumatic birth. She kindly shares how she navigated their NICU experience, and got through those difficult days.

I was 39+1 weeks pregnant when I went into labour. I hadn't worried at all about giving birth during my pregnancy, but I’d underestimated how traumatic birth could actually be.

17 hours of labour left me broken but by 11 am on 9 November 2021, it was time to start pushing and at 11:33 am my beautiful baby boy Campbell entered the world. The first 24 hours were a dream - I managed to breastfeed and fell in love with my baby. After birth, I was told I had pre-eclampsia and would need to stay in hospital longer to recover, but my husband had to leave due to Covid.

The second night we were in hospital my world fell apart. At around 2 am I noticed my baby looked like he was sweating from his top lip and twitching. I called for the midwife they checked him over and said he was fine. I still thought something was wrong so called again - they brought a NICU nurse who said she would take Campbell away to check on him so I could rest, but there didn't seem to be anything wrong. I tried to rest and around an hour later the nurse and midwife came back and informed me my son had been having seizures and had stopped breathing during them so had been ventilated.

I knew something wasn’t right, but I never imagined it would turn out to be that bad.

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Campbell continued to have seizures over the coming days and had to be on three different types of anti-seizure medication until these were brought under control. He had to have multiple cannulas, a surgical line to get medication and multiple EGG scans. The initial scan on his brain showed he had two bleeds - the doctor told us there was no longer a risk to life, however they needed to investigate further why the bleeds had occurred.

Campbell needed an MRI and we were called in with our nurse and consultant and given the most devastating news that our son had suffered a perineal stroke, which means it occurred during labour or up to two weeks before.

We were told the prognosis was not great - Campbell probably wouldn't be able to swallow and would have impacted on his motor skills. We cried and cried - we couldn't understand why this had happened. Our consultant confirmed it was very rare for a stroke to occur in a full-term baby and there was nothing we could have done to prevent it. Maybe we’ll never find out why it happened although we are still pushing for answers.

Campbell was then unventilated and continued to strengthen in hospital. Our first milestone was taking him off tube feed and seeing if he could feed from me. After a couple of days of trying to confirm he could swallow and had his gag reflex, he did it.

I cried again, amazed at my little warrior, and after two weeks Campbell was discharged with a care plan with a neurosurgeon to check the swelling in his head, a physiotherapist and his NICU consultant. That was back in November 2021 - Campbell reached 19 weeks old this week and he has hit every milestone so far.

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He is now a happy smiling baby: holding his head, grabbing toys and his physiotherapist can't see any water damage to his limbs or movement from the stroke. We have further milestones to meet but I hope this story helps others as reading this hopefully gives hope.

Campbell is a blessing and I truly believe he has a little determination inside him to recover we are so proud of him every day.

Bliss really helped me and my husband - we had a Zoom call with a Bliss Champion while we were on the NICU. She talked us through what her little girl went through and how she had recovered – it gave us hope. She gave some really helpful information and pointed us in the direction of more support for strokes in children, and just did her best to keep our spirits up. She also really included my husband in the conversation which was lovely as he was a bit anxious about talking about his feelings.

We came off the call feeling more ready to face what we had to come, knowing we weren’t alone and that so many others had struggled in similar situations.