"More research is needed to help families like us" | Action Medical Research

Touching Lives - June 2007

"More research is needed to help families like us"

Anna O’Driscoll had a completely normal first pregnancy up until the 26th week, when her waters broke without warning and she had to be admitted to hospital. Barney was born weighing just 2lb 6oz at 27 weeks gestation. His three month stay in the neonatal unit was a highly traumatic time for the new parents.

Anna recalls, “It was such a scary time for us. I felt frustrated at not being able to be a ‘normal’ parent — we were only allowed to do what the neonatal unit allowed.We’d often arrive to find him having a blood transfusion or other medical intervention, which could be really distressing to witness.”

A week before Barney weighed enough to come home, Anna was admitted to hospital to establish breastfeeding. However, a further setback occurred when Barney stopped breathing following his first set of immunisations, and had to be rushed back to intensive care. Fortunately, he pulled through and no lasting damage was done.

Born too soon

When Anna became pregnant for the second time, she experienced some early bleeding, and was placed under the care of a hospital consultant. Unfortunately, at 24 weeks, she was admitted to hospital with lower abdominal pain, and doctors estimated there was a 50/50 chance of her going into labour within seven days. Anna was put on a drip in order to delay the onset of labour, and steroid injections were administered. ^”It was such a scary time for us. I felt frustrated at not being able to be a ‘normal’ parent.”^ to strengthen the baby’s lungs. Cian was born at just 25 weeks gestation. He was put in an incubator and had numerous tubes inserted into his tiny body. Sadly, he only survived for four days.

Although she had been warned by doctors to expect bad news, nothing could prepare Anna and her husband for the shock of being told their baby was dying. Anna remembers, “I was called from the ward to be told that Cian was being resuscitated. When I got there, he looked grey in the incubator and very sick. After what felt like hours, but was probably only 20 minutes, Brendan arrived. A nurse told us that Cian was near death and asked if we would like to hold him. I was pulling at the wires that were still attached to try and hold him properly.”

Cian’s death was devastating for the family. As Anna says, “Telling Barney was awful. He said, ‘Does this mean I’m not a big brother any more?’”

Improvements in care

Happily, Anna is now pregnant again, and this time round is experiencing improvements in antenatal monitoring as a result of early findings from ongoing research into unexplained premature birth. She explains, “I am having fortnightly swabs taken, along with fortnightly scans, and from 16 weeks I have had daily progesterone pessaries. Nobody can really tell me how effective all these drugs will be. However, I’ve now reached the 35-week mark in my pregnancy, and every week that goes by now is such a relief.

“A lot more research needs to be done to help women like me sustain a pregnancy, especially those who inexplicably go into labour so early. I hope more funding for research will ensure that people like me don’t have to go through the trauma of seeing their precious child die.”

To help prevent more children dying like Cian O’Driscoll, we urgently need your help in raising more money to tackle the problems of pregnancy complications and premature birth. If you’d like to support the Touching Tiny Lives Campaign please call our supporter care team on 01403 210406 or visit www.action.org.uk/ttl

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