Anneliese’s story


I suppose I’d better start right at the beginning.  My wife and I got married in the middle of September 2006 and within a couple of months, we were both delighted when we found out that we were expecting our first child.


We had the normal dating scan and blood tests, but then one Saturday night at 13 weeks my wife suffered a minor bleed. We went straight to the hospital where they examined my wife, gave her and ultrasound scan and said everything looked fine.  We relaxed but looking back I do wonder if this was a portent of what was to come.


Everything went relatively normally for the next 10 weeks and we went along to the 23 week scan and everything seemed to be progressing well.  Our baby was slightly on the small side but nothing to really concern the doctors, so it was a case of just waiting out the remainder of the pregnancy and preparing to have a little one.


Then things took a turn that we were not expecting…..


Sitting watching a film one Saturday night, my wife got up only to find a damp patch where she had been sitting. We decided to play things safe, and off we went to A&E. A doctor saw us at around midnight and said that my wife was not leaking any amniotic fluid so far as he could see, and that was confirmed by the ultrasound scan that showed there was still 4cm around the baby and that things would be OK.  He suggested a day’s bed rest but also said she could return to work on the Monday.


Then on the Tuesday my wife got a call saying she needed to come back to the Maternity unit at the hospital for some Antibiotics as she had a urine infection.


Wednesday arrived and of we went to the hospital only to see the same doctor we had on the previous Saturday. He told us that my wife’s urine infection was called Strep B. My wife mentioned to the doctor that she was still leaking fluid and the doctor examined her again and to be safe gave her yet another ultrasound scan. This time the news was devastating, there was no fluid at all around the baby, indeed my wife’s water had indeed broken the previous Saturday at 23 weeks and 2 days!


So here we were, now at 23 weeks and 5 days being told that my wife needs to be admitted to hospital immediately.  Things where whizzing round our heads, we didn’t know what was really happening. We asked the doctors what the prognosis was and they said if my wife gave birth now, there was little chance, but every day that went past the chances improved.


So we find ourselves in hospital.  My wife lying in a Maternity ward trying not to give birth and all those around her wanting to give birth - a very uncomfortable situation. My wife was given two steroid injections to help the baby’s lungs develop more quickly in the womb, just in case she decided to make a really early appearance.


Two days past and nothing seemed to be happening, so on the Friday, the doctors decided to send my wife home, on the express instruction that if anything happened to go straight back to the Maternity unit.

I was awoken the next morning to the news that my wife was bleeding, so it was straight back to the hospital and to be readmitted to the same bed we left 24 hours previously.


My wife started to complain of bit of backache, but no one seemed to pick up that this was the start of labour pains. A day past and everything seemed to be settling down so I was sent home to get some new clothes.


Then I got the dreaded phone call…”Your wife’s giving birth; she’s in theatre, get here now!” My mind was racing as I drove to the hospital, what had happened? Why was she in theatre?


As it transpired, my wife had been on the toilet and had passed the umbilical cord (known as a ‘prolapsed cord’), and this had been the reason she was rushed to theatre. She was given an emergency C-section at 24 weeks and 2 days gestation.


At 2.25p.m., our daughter Anneliese was born weighing in at a minute 1lb 3oz (550g). We were told that the chances were slim but that she had come out screaming which was a good sign.


The next few hours are a bit of a blur looking after my wife, while on the floor above the doctors were trying to stabilise our tiny daughter.


We were told later that day that Anneliese was to be transferred to Rosie Maternity Hospital, Addenbrookes as this hospital would not cope with such an extreme premature baby and that the next few hours were critical. The Cambridge NATS team duly arrived and Anneliese had several lines put into her and was put into her transport incubator. Just before they were about to start the transfer, we were able to see out daughter for the first time, a small speck in an incubator struggling for life.


The next couple of hours were the worst of my life as I waited to hear that Anneliese had survived the journey.  I was so relieved when I finally got the call that said she had made it.  She was critical but stable in an incubator in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Rosie Maternity Hospital, Addenbrookes. We were unable to join her that night as my wife was recovering from her general aneathetic from the C-Section and we would not see our daughter for the next 24 hours. I am not a religious person, but that night I prayed with all my might that the news would be positive.


As it turned out, we awoke to hear she was doing well and my wife was transferred to Addenbrookes by ambulance with me following in the car behind. From this day, we had a rollercoaster ride ahead of us, daily 60 mile round trips getting to know all about infection indicators, different types of ventilators, and getting to know the great team of dedicated nurses and doctors that were determined to help Anneliese pull through.


We had our down days when she had bad infections or a bleed in the brain and our good days when she had put on weight and the CRP indicator dropped. One of the best days, was when we were able to hold our precious daughter for the first time at 5 weeks, she was so small and so fragile!


After 7 weeks, we were told that as she had improved and would be well enough to transfer to a NICU unit at our local hospital, Lister Hospital. Whilst this might seem good, it was a cause of much anxiety. We were used to the team at Addenbrookes, we were full of questions… was she ready for the journey, were the team at Lister going to cope…basically it was the fear of the unknown.


A further 9 weeks at Lister in NICU, and high dependency followed the routine of hospital visits and work. The stress of the days when long lines need to be inserted for feed, the days when Anneliese’s condition meant blood transfusions. The days of joy when she moved from NICU to High Dependency, when she moved from an incubator to a hot cot, and then to an open cot. The days when we celebrated her getting the discharge from the optician and when she passed her hearing test.


And then 2 days after her due date we were told, “She’s ready to go home, albeit on Oxygen.” Then over the next month, the Oxygen gradually reduced and now she is on a minuscule amount at night only and nothing during the day.


So here we are today, exactly 5 months on from the birth of our beautiful daughter. We have a bouncing 9lb baby keeping us awake at nights, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.


To all of the Nurses and Doctors, all we can say is a massive thank you, and to all of the other parents out there going through this difficult time, there is hope, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.