NO PLACE LIKE HOME
‘The drive home, every night, leaving him. I don’t think I've ever felt sadness like that and just to be able to have him home, be able to have him next to me in the bassinet and to able to be with him, its priceless. I can’t put into words how amazing that feeling was’.
June 2022 was a wonderful month for Caroline as she found out she was expecting a baby boy. Excited for their future, Caroline and her husband Nav started to plan the birthing journey. From the beginning, the couple knew they wanted to participate in shared care that involved The Royal Hospital for Women in conjunction with their GP.
Choosing The Royal was Caroline’s priority as she had previously undergone gynaecological surgery back in 2014 and wanted continuity of care as well as facilitating health care that was familiar and trusted.
In recent years, Caroline had also been experiencing hypothyroidism and needed to see the endocrinologist twice while pregnant as well as the obstetrician twice to make sure with her health history that her pregnancy was all normal and healthy. Caroline explained that ‘they were very thorough’.
When everything was cleared Caroline experienced a normal and happy pregnancy until 34 weeks when on Friday 27th January when she started experiencing cramping and ‘things didn’t feel right, my intuition just told me to contact the midwife.’
‘The incredible thing about the care received at the Royal is that each patient is given the direct number to the delivery suite where there is a midwife to speak to you around the clock if you have any questions.'
From this call, Caroline was given some instructions and if symptoms persisted, she was to call back in an hour. Unfortunately, Caroline’s pain persisted, and she was asked to come into the hospital. Caroline was hooked up to a cardiotocography machine. Fortunately, the baby was doing well but due to the cramping, she needed to stay to be seen by the obstetrician and genealogical registrar. Her cervix was checked, and she was almost 2cm dilated. ‘I was quite shocked.’ The doctors ran through everything and what that meant for her and the health of the baby.
One of the biggest concerns was that due to her dilation, she may go into labour, which would lead to time in The Royal’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with her baby being premature.
‘I felt really, really reassured by what they were saying and all the information they were giving me, they were just brilliant.'
Caroline was admitted to the Birthing Suite where she continued to be monitored. Two days passed which is wonderful for the health of the baby. The longer babies can stay inside the lower the risk of health issues associated with premature babies. Often in these critical cases, an extra hour inside makes an insurmountable difference.
After two days her cervix further dilated, and she began experiencing contractions. The team visited her bedside often and talked her through each process and the next course of action.
‘Throughout the whole process, I just felt really well informed. I felt like even though I didn’t want to have a premature baby I was in the best hospital in Australia to have one.’
Caroline’s contractions continued for the next four days until her water broke and Jude was born.
It was quite beautiful that Caroline and Jude were able to instantly have a skin-to-skin chest cuddle right away.
After Caroline and Jude’s cuddle, he was taken down to the NICU due to his prematurity, hypoglycaemia, jaundice, and apnoea.
There are over 1,000 premature and critically ill babies cared for in The Royal's NICU each year. Donations to campaigns such as Heart for Her, have helped fund over 70% of the life-saving equipment in the unit.
It was a few weeks into their NICU stay when Caroline was approached by, Eszter a clinical nurse consultant in the NICU who specialises in the Hospital in the Home Program (HiTH).
Hospital in the Home is a foundation-funded initiative that sees up to 120 babies a year go home from the NICU weeks earlier. Families are able to take their babies home with all the tools they need for the baby to gain weight as well as regular home visits from Nurse Eszter herself.
‘Eszter, she is an angel. She is the baby whisperer. She is just a beautiful human being.’
Jude was able to go home a week earlier than expected due to HiTH. Eszter visited several times, helping with various medical necessities, and even helped Caroline give Jude his first bath.
When babies are offered to partake in HiTH they receive tailored home care visits from Eszter. They are still an inpatient and have access to all the benefits of an inpatient but in the comfort of their own home.
‘I was worried about not being able to have that quick access to a nurse, but Eszter reassured me, gave me her phone number, and because Jude is still a patient if I had any concerns I could always call or come straight back to the NICU, bypassing admissions.’
As part of Caroline’s experience in the NICU, she took part in a baby CPR and safe sleeping course. Both courses are free and available to all NICU patient families at The Royal.