It was the week before Christmas 2010 and my husband and I were embarking on the most exciting, yet daunting chapter, of our lives. I was 36 weeks pregnant, had just started my maternity leave. We were eagerly anticipating our last Christmas as a family of 2 and the birth of our first child in the New Year. We had fortunately moved into our newly renovated home at the beginning of December, after spending all of my pregnancy up to that point living in a static caravan! However as the preparations accelerated I fell poorly with what I assumed was a bad cold, or at worse flu. My fever and flu-like symptoms worsened and by December 23rd I felt absolutely rotten, but was determined to carry on with wrapping the presents, the last minute shopping and visiting friends and relatives. It was as if I’d convinced myself that life as we knew it was going to end in mid-January and that this Christmas must be the best one ever! I rang my GP but was told that in order to prevent the further spread of my suspected flu I shouldn’t attend the surgery, drink plenty of fluids, and rest as much as I could. Rest?! It was Christmas! By Christmas day I had a raging temperature. One minute I felt like I wanted to strip down to my bikini and the other minute I was shivering so much my teeth were rattling loudly. By that evening, since my condition was visibly deteriorating and I was getting less sociable by the hour (which isn’t like me!) my husband, Owain, insisted on taking me to see a GP at our local out of hours medical centre. I was examined and prescribed penicillin since the doctor suspected I had some sort of an infection.
The following day it suddenly dawned on me that my baby hadn’t moved since the night before. This wasn’t an irregular occurrence since little miss lazy bones hadn’t been a prolific wriggler from the word go, and I had presented at the obstetric day unit on several occasions previously only to be hooked up to a monitoring device and told that our little pudding was perfectly content and that we had nothing to worry about. It was only through sheer luck, given that I really didn’t want to get out of bed and that it was snowing heavily, that I rang my district midwife and listened to her advice, which was to travel to our local hospital to be monitored. What happened next led to a train of events which ultimately saved our lives.
I arrived at our local maternity unit at around 1pm and can hardly remember a thing after ringing the bell on the labour ward’s main entrance, but from what Owain told me the midwife who came to the door expressed immediate concern about my flu-like symptoms and I was thoroughly examined by an obstetrician and our baby was monitored. Soon after, the decision was made that I needed to undergo an emergency caesarean under general anaesthetic (since a local anaesthetic would’ve placed further pressure on my already compromised chest) due to the low levels of oxygen in my blood. At 8.05pm on Boxing Day 2010 our beautiful baby daughter, Elsa, was born (and no, our choice of name was not determined as a result of leaked information from Disney!) weighing 5lbs 150zs. However, I remained in a coma and on a life-support machine at the Intensive Care Unit for a further 8 days, and did not meet Elsa until she was 11 days old. It was later confirmed that I had contracted Swine Flu which later developed into pneumonia and later Sepsis. As I lay in a coma the prominence of Swine Flu on the national news grew day by day as more and more people succumbed to the illness.
Elsa remained at hospital throughout, and her dad spent his time floating between the intensive care unit and the maternity unit, losing all track of time as he went. Fortunately, Elsa was fit and healthy and was physically unaffected by her mother’s condition. On the other hand, I can’t imagine what it was like for Owain to be handed his tiny new-born daughter, and then told as his wife was wheeled passed him unconsciously covered in tubes, that she was critically ill and that the next few hours were crucial. In order to distract himself from the devastation of the situation he immersed himself in caring for his new daughter and prayed that we would all soon be reunited.
After several unsuccessful attempts at bringing me out of the coma I eventually woke up on the 2nd January 2011. However, the elation felt by my family at that point was short lived since it was apparent that I was far from being well. For days after waking up I suffered horrific hallucinations which meant that Owain could hardly leave my side for another 2 days. I was also refusing to sleep for the fear of not waking up again. Owain had told me that we had a daughter but I didn’t give much thought to the baby since I could hardly remember being pregnant at that stage. However, hour by hour I regained strength and by the 5th January it was determined that I was free from the Swine flu and was fit enough to be transferred to the maternity unit and reunited with our baby girl. I will never forget the first time I saw Elsa- this tiny red haired doll like creature who was sleeping soundly in her grandmother’s arms. A number of different emotions ran through my veins- from euphoria and jubilation that I was meeting my daughter for the first time, to devastation, grief, and guilt that I had missed out on the first eleven days of her life and important milestones such as her first bottle, first nappy change, and her first bath etc. I was particularly unfairly cross that a number of family members and close friends had met Elsa before I had.
However, from the moment I first met Elsa I never looked back and grew in strength from day to day. We had ample opportunity after returning home to create our own family milestones and mummy and daughter memories. I strongly believe that my little ginger pudding assisted my recovery greatly since I was unable to dwell on our situation and had to get on with it, the same as every other new parent has to. I have been extremely fortunate that I haven’t been left with any long standing physical side effects and I am greatly recovered psychologically.
I often think, even though I know I shouldn’t, what would’ve happened if we hadn’t followed the train of events which we did on that fateful day. I was told by one of my consultants that it was unlikely that I would’ve woken up that following morning had I returned to bed, and that it was sheer luck that I dragged myself to hospital when I did. Therefore, I will forever be grateful to our little Christmas miracle for being so instrumental in saving both our lives and being as much of a dawdler in the womb as she is at 4 years old!