The night I almost lost my son and partner to sepsis – Mitchell’s story

Mitchell’s son Louis was born at 32 weeks. He shares his experience of nearly losing his son and partner to sepsis.

The day my partner Nicole and I found out that she was pregnant still seems completely surreal. Nicole didn’t have a very nice pregnancy. She was plagued throughout with migraines, aches and pains and severe morning sickness. For months, we went back and forth to both the hospital and our GP without a successful diagnosis.

It soon became apparent that something was seriously wrong. Nicole was getting severe pains in the side of her body leaving her in agony. She was struggling to move and get out of bed. I thought at first that she had pulled a muscle in her back. A number of tests were done on Nicole’s appendix, Gaul bladder, kidneys and lungs. The tests failed to reveal any issues and Nicole was told she was just having a rough time. As Nicole’s partner, it was horrible to witness and I felt helpless.

On the day of my son’s birth, things escalated very quickly. I had been out for the day with some friends and as I arrived home, I got a call from the hospital. I was told to go straight there. Nicole had driven herself to A&E and had suddenly collapsed in the waiting room. She had sepsis which was travelling quickly, meaning they had to deliver the baby now.

As I travelled to the hospital I felt nervous and very aware that this was it – I was going to be a dad. I’m only 22 so if I’m honest, I didn’t feel 100 per cent ready for it. At this point, I didn’t yet realise just how serious the situation was and what was waiting for me at the hospital.

Just four minutes after I arrived at the hospital, our son Louis was born. Unfortunately, because of Nicole’s condition I wasn’t allowed in the room with her. I felt incredibly guilty that Nicole had to go through so much on her own but the nurses were very comforting and sat me in a maternity room to come to terms with what was going on.

When I was told that Louis was here, I was also informed that both he and his mother would be taken straight into intensive care. I asked if I could see them and was told I could walk down the corridor with them on the way to their separate wards.

I felt an incredible sinking feeling when I first saw them both with tubes in their mouths helping them to breathe. A never ending stream of doctors and consultants approached me, telling me they were both very poorly and fighting for their lives. It was terrifying but I knew Nicole was a fighter – she’d driven herself to hospital while her body battled sepsis. I knew she could do this.

A few never-ending hours passed and I was told that I could go and see them both. I went to see Louis first and I was shocked by how small he was. Having never seen a baby born at 32 weeks gestation, I could hardly believe how delicate he seemed. I felt the unbreakable father-son bond as soon as I laid eyes on him.

The neonatal team told me that Louis’ condition was extremely critical and he would need to be transported from Lincoln to Nottingham. There were two people who needed me and deciding who to go with when both were battling for survival was the most heart-breaking decision I ever had to make. I wished I could split myself in two so that I could be with them both. In the end, I knew that Nicole would have wanted me to do all I could to protect our son so I decided to go with him.

When the transport team arrived, they had to settle Louis into a travel incubator before our journey. While they was doing this, I went to the intensive care unit to see Nicole. I completely broke down when I walked in to see her. She was unconscious and attached to a machine to help her breathe. I honestly felt as if this could be the last time I ever saw her. I held her hand and brushed her hair. I told her how proud I was, how much I loved her and how beautiful our baby son was. She squeezed my hand.

It’s impossible to describe the feeling of thinking you are going to lose both your partner and your baby. It was so surreal that it was like a dream, and not a very nice one. Without my mum coming to meet me at the hospital, I don’t know how I would have coped. My mum was really strong and reassuring and helped me through this lonely, horrible time. Nicole’s parents were also brilliant and stayed with her in the intensive care unit whilst I was at Nottingham with Louis so I knew she wouldn’t be alone.

Two days later, Louis was breathing on his own but Nicole hadn’t made any signs of improvement. I thought back to that first drive to the hospital where I felt like I wasn’t ready to be a dad yet but now knew that I would do anything and everything to take care of my son – even if I had to do it alone.

I had amazing support from a nurse called Caroline who I met the first day on the unit in Nottingham. I told her I was worried about hurting Louis by being involved in his care as he was so small but she showed me how to change his nappy in the incubator. After this, I had the motivation to learn and do as much as I could while we were in the hospital. It wasn’t long before I was not only changing nappies but feeding Louis through a tube and helping to monitor the machines he was hooked up to

Things started to take an upward turn. By the end of the week, Nicole was breathing on her own and Louis was transferred back to Lincoln where we were both able to care for him.

When I saw Nicole awake for the first time, I couldn’t stop crying. She was still on gas and air and a lot of antibiotics and she looked at me as I sobbed and just said: “Alright Mitch?”

I had kept a diary of Louis’ time in hospital with lots of photos and notes about his milestones. It was amazing to sit with Nicole and share this with her. The moment where Nicole and Louis met for the first time will stay with me forever. I don’t think Nicole was expecting him to be as small as he actually was but you could see they had an instant connection.

Louis was on the NICU for just over a month. Without the advice, help and support from all of the nurses we wouldn’t have been as strong as we were through this whole process. The Bliss posters and information motivated and helped for us to gain more knowledge about what we were going through.

Now we are over the moon that we can continue our lives as a family, doing things together and planning holidays for the future. Louis loves going swimming with his mummy and daddy and already has lots of friends.

If I was to give any advice to another dad or partner that goes through this, I would say you should allow people to help you. It’s very easy to skip meals and not sleep but make sure you make time to take care of yourself otherwise you won’t be able to take care of those around you. It’s a long process but there is a light at the end of the tunnel – even when it seems very far away.

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this post and would like support, you can view our online support pages.

Want to share your story with us?

If you have had a premature or full term but sick baby in neonatal care, we would love to hear from you. Fill in our online form to share your story with us.
Share my story