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Sunday, 05 July 2015

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Mums back fight to retain Furness General Hospital services

IT is hard to believe that this time last year Mercedes Pickering was fighting for her life, after being born three months premature.

The fact the beautiful little girl looks and acts like any other toddler her age belies the gravity of the health challenges she has faced.

Mercedes weighed just 1lb 11oz when she was delivered by emergency caesarean at the Royal Preston Hospital on December 20, 2011.

Doctors warned Ormsgill parents, Chrissy and Vince Pickering, that even if their child defied the odds and survived, it was likely she would have permanent health problems.

But from the moment the tiny tot was rushed into the world, she has confounded medical expectations by making remarkable progress with her physical and mental development.

Mrs Pickering said Mercedes’ first birthday was an extra special occasion for the whole family, including her sisters Shelby, eight, and Lexi, five.

The 26-year-old said: “I think the whole family wanted to get together and celebrate it because it had been such a traumatic experience last year.

“We were told that the survival chances for 25-week babies aren’t that fantastic – it really is 50-50. So for her to have survived and be left with very minimal health problems is a great achievement.”

Mercedes’ early arrival meant she was born with various problems with organs such as her heart, lungs, brain and bowel, but some of these have eased as she has got older and stronger.

While she has developed slightly slower than normal and still needs monthly visits to specialists like dieticians and physiotherapists, by the time she reaches five she is expected to have caught up. Mrs Pickering puts her daughter’s progress down to the expert care she received at both Furness General Hospital and the Royal Preston Hospital.

Now she is determined to throw her weight behind the Thousand Voices campaign to protect FGH maternity services from being downgraded.

She said: “It’s something that’s really close to my heart. In my case, I had to be transferred to Preston because we didn’t have the neo-natal facilities here that Mercedes was going to need when she was born.

“So I’ve experienced giving birth out of the area and it’s terrifying because when you’re being transported you need a consultant and a midwife in case you deliver in transit and I had to leave Vince at Furness General. Vince doesn’t drive so he had to issue a Facebook plea asking if someone could give him a lift to Preston. Thankfully he found someone who could.”

One woman for whom Mrs Pickering’s words will bring back more than a few memories is Deborah Pattinson.

At exactly the same time as Mercedes’ family were celebrating her first birthday, Miss Pattinson was preparing to bring her child home for the first time – having given birth more than two months earlier.

Her son, Finley Joe Burch, was born at FGH on October 17, just 26 weeks and six days into his mum’s pregnancy. Miss Pattinson credits the consultants who were on hand at FGH for saving her tiny 2lb 2oz baby.

The 24-year-old, of Knott Lane, Broughton, said: “It was all so quick. They were going to try to transfer me to Preston, but it wasn’t safe because I was in labour. If the consultants hadn’t been there, he wouldn’t be here.

“The minute he was born they had to intubate him and ventilate him and get him stabilised before he had to be transferred.

“The care from the consultants and the special care staff was brilliant.”

Finley Joe was taken to Preston, where he spent more than a month, before being brought back to the FGH Special Care Baby Unit on December 9. He was finally allowed to return home with his family on Christmas Eve, and Miss Pattinson said he is not expected to have any long-term problems. Her experience, she feels, highlights the effect downgrading maternity could have on the hospital’s other services.

She said: “There was a problem while we were back in the SCBU due to staffing – they couldn’t get a members of staff to cover one night shift – which of course, isn’t the staff's fault.

“They wanted to transfer him to Lancaster but the incubator wouldn’t fit in the ambulance, then the ambulances at Manchester were too busy to pick him up. So they rang a consultant to come and sit with him all night.

“He really did have the best possible care.”

A spokeswoman for UHMBT said: “I’d like to thank Deborah for taking the time to tell us about her positive experiences of our maternity and paediatric services at Furness General Hospital. It is always nice for staff in our hospitals to hear kind words like these and I will be sure to pass them onto the teams involved.

“I’d like to wish Deborah, baby Finley and the rest of their family all the best for the future.”

Of the Thousand Voices campaign, UHMBT has said the public will be involved in the discussions that shape the ongoing review of all its services, and no decisions have yet been made about how things might change.


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