The grateful parents of a baby girl have revealed they owe their daughter’s life to a midwife who trusted her instincts to give them an earlier scan appointment.
Abbigail and Peter Smith-Robinson say their daughter Jessica would not be here today without the actions of midwife Maria Williamson who found them an earlier follow-up scan appointment when Jessica’s growth was showing as small.
And they were so full of gratitude to the midwife, who works at the Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre at Burnley General Teaching Hospital, they named their daughter Jessica Maria Smith-Robinson in her honour.
Abbigail said: “If Maria had not brought the scan date earlier, Jessica would have died in my tummy when her heart rate dropped so low and we would not have known until we went for the scan a few weeks later.
"It does not bear thinking about.
“So we decided to have Jessica’s middle name as Maria to always remember the midwife who saved her life."
Maria, who has been a midwife for 23 years said she was extremely moved by the gesture, saying: "I have had lovely cards and presents but I
have never had anyone name their baby after me before.
“It made me feel very emotional and it is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.
"“I am glad I was able to help them and that Jessica is doing so well. As a midwife, you are always looking and watching. They call it ‘midwife’s intuition."
“I was worried they were waiting too long for an appointment so tried to get them an earlier one.
“Sometimes, you just get a feeling and I felt that bringing that scan forward was the right thing to do."
Jessica, who is now one, spent the first months of her life battling for survival in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after she was born as an emergency when a problem with the placenta’s blood flow was detected.
Jessica was born at 26 weeks, weighing just 650g and spent the next four-and- a-half months in NICU where she was ventilated and nursed to full health by the dedicated team of doctors and nurses..
The little battler is now off oxygen and doing really well and her proud parents are celebrating a full year of having her at home.
The couple, who are both 30 and live in Hapton, were thrilled when they found out they were expecting their first baby together.
However, they became concerned when Abbigail had a little bleed and a growth scan showed their baby was quite small and they were told Abbigail’s next scan would be at 28 weeks.
Peter, who is a business development manager for a print company, said: "“Abbigail got quite upset about it all and one of the midwives called Maria noticed she was distressed and asked if it would make things better if she tried to get her in a bit earlier and booked her in for the scan at 26 weeks.”
When Abbigail and Peter went to the hospital for the scan at 26 weeks, the sonographer looked concerned and told the couple to go to a room and a doctor and nurse came to see them.
Peter said: “They were welling up trying to tell us and said they needed to get the baby out straight away as there was a problem called absent end diastolic flow.”
Absent end diastolic flow indicates a problem with the flow of flood through the vessels of the placenta which can have implications for the wellbeing of the baby. Blood flows from the placenta to the baby and takes the badness out.
When it is at a high flow, it is pumping goodness in but with Jessica the flow was slowing down which was putting her life at risk.
Peter said: “Even though Abbigail was 26 weeks pregnant at this stage, Jessica’s growth was that of a 24-week foetus as the placenta was not giving her what she needed because of this problem with the flow.”
Specialists at Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre wanted to buy Jessica time and to give Abbigail steroid injections to speed up the baby’s development.
Peter said: “We were given all sorts of alarming statistics such as Jessica’s survival rate being 15 to 20 per cent and the possible side effects of steroid injections being some form of disability.
“They hooked Abbigail up to monitors to keep regular checks on the placenta’s flow.
“They managed to keep Jessica inside for three days but on the third day, when they were doing the monitoring, the flow started reversing and Jessica’s heart rate dropped and it was panic stations.
“But within 15 minutes, Abbigail was in surgery and Jessica was born by emergency caesarean section.
“Jessica gave a little cry when she was born and they said that was very impressive as often when they are that tiny, they need resuscitating.
“Jessica was tiny and weighed less than one-and- a-half pounds. Her ears were still stuck to her head and so many parts of her were not properly formed.
"It was frightening to see. She went straight to NICU and was put in an incubator and had all sorts of tubes and from that point on, she had regular blood tests and injections and was constantly pricked and prodded.”
Abbigail, a sales manager in the print industry, remembers: “It was very difficult as Jessica had been born but she wasn't with me.
“I was staying on the ward with other women who had their baby, but I did not have mine.
“After a few days, I was allowed to go home but I stayed in hospital for about 12 hours a day all the time Jessica was in there.
“We spent all of our time at the hospital as we did not want to leave her.”
Jessica was on a ventilator for six weeks in intensive care and then moved to the high dependency unit and gradually to different levels of oxygen support
The little mite had ups and downs throughout her journey, including becoming ill with sepsis but in October 2016, she was finally allowed to go home with her parents.
Peter said: “Jessica was on oxygen for six months after she came home until February this year.
“In March, she became ill with bronchilitis and ended up back in hospital. But luckily she recovered well from that."
Jessica still has chronic lung disease but she is doing brilliantly and at this point doctors do not have any concerns with her development.
But she is smaller than children her age and although she is now one-and-a-half she wears clothes for a baby aged six to nine months.
Abbigail said: “Jessica is a very happy little girl and every morning, she wakes up with a beaming smile on her face as though she is really happy to be here.”
The adorable little girl loves being the centre of attention and is already cutting her first teeth and standing up. She can also say a few words.
Her proud parents hope that sharing their story will give hope and inspiration to other parents of premature babies.
Peter, who also has a six-year- old son Oskar, said during their four-and- a-half-months in NICU, they got to know all the staff well and also forged a bond with many families.
He also praised Dr Naharmal Soni, Jessica’s consultant, and says he is wonderful with her and always recognises her straight away and plays with her.
Peter said: “One of the things that sticks in your mind about NICU is the beeping sound the machines made.
“You are sat there for so long listening to it that you feel like you hear it in your sleep and are haunted by it.
“Four-and- a-half months is a long time in NICU and we got to know all the staff personally. We want to commend all the staff in NICU - the consultants, nurses, everyone.
“We had so much support from the staff and the other families in there and they made a difficult time easier.
The couple have also thanked the community care team who looked after them when they brought Jessica home.
Abbigail said: "They were really supportive - especially one of them called Marcia.
“My advice to anyone who is ever in this situation is to take each day at a time and remember that nothing bad lasts forever.
“It was a very difficult time but the care and support we had was invaluable.
“We hope our story lets other parents of premature babies know that they are not alone and gives them the positive side.
Dr Soni, who is a consultant neonatologist at NICU, said: “It is always a pleasure and rewarding to see extremely premature babies
doing well after months of stay in NICU.
“Lancashire Women and Newborn Centre is a centre of excellence for delivery of neonatal intensive care to tiny premature babies as well as sick term babies with highly skilled staff using modern equipment with advanced technology.
“The unit has an excellent team of doctors, nurses and allied healthcare staff who not only strive hard to deliver the highest level of clinical care but do this keeping care and compassion at the centre of their efforts.”