"It's taken a long time to accept what happened" - Emily's story

Emily's baby on the unit

Emily gave birth to her daughter Heidi one day before her due date. She shares details about her traumatic experience of being admitted to the HDU and SCBU, and offers advice to other parents.

My daughter Heidi was born on 28 December 2020 at 6:57am, one day before her due date. I had suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG, excessive nausea and vomiting), throughout my pregnancy and had regular growth scans all of which confirmed a healthy baby.

There was meconium in my waters and the midwife requested an ambulance transfer from the birthing unit to another hospital, where there were doctors who would be able to help.

However, the ambulance was cancelled as they were only able to accept life-threatening incidents. After Heidi’s birth concerns grew around her lack of interest in feeding - she was also vomiting, and very lethargic.

She soon developed a rash across her body and kept bringing up mucous. An ambulance was called twice more and each time cancelled as we still didn’t qualify as urgent enough.

Our midwife contacted the A&E department at the hospital we were at, but they said they were unable to help her because Heidi needed specialist neonatal care and there were no paediatricians currently on shift to provide an assessment.

24 hours after I gave birth, a doctor came to see Heidi on the unit and this was when sepsis was first mentioned. The doctor said our baby was very poorly and we needed to get her to a hospital 40 minutes away immediately.

She explained that we still wouldn’t be able to get an ambulance transfer and that we would have to get her there ourselves. It was terrifying driving her there - I was so worried she would bring up mucous and choke again or vomit. This time there were no emergency alarms, midwives or resuscitation to help save her if we needed it.

Heidi wrapped in blankets

However, we arrived safely at the hospital and the consultant assessed her immediately and took her straight down to SCBU.

We had some difficulty being admitted onto the unit as we had come from another hospital, and there were concerns we might be bringing Covid-19 onto the ward as she hadn’t been born at this hospital.

Luckily the consultant insisted Heidi needed to be here and we were admitted to the HDU. Heidi was very dehydrated by this point and immediately had a cannula with fluids, a feeding tube and antibiotics started.

Fortunately, Heidi responded really well to the antibiotics quickly and made a full recovery. I found our time at SCBU very traumatic and it’s taken a long time to accept what happened, but we are so grateful now that we have a happy, healthy and full-of-life toddler now.

My advice to you would be to reach out for support to those around you. Being on the unit can be a very isolating experience and although people want to help, sometimes they don’t know what you need, so you need to tell them!

Heidi is now a happy, healthy toddler