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Michael

Age at interview: 32
Brief Outline: At a GP appointment at 32 weeks check it was discovered that Michael’s partner (Helen X) had high blood pressure. Her blood pressure was monitored over 5 days, then HELLP syndrome diagnosed. Their son was delivered by emergency caesarean and spent 3 weeks in the neo-natal unit.
Background: Michael is a website manager. It was he and his partner’s first child. White Australian.

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Michael and his partner (Helen X) were not really prepared for the early arrival of their son. They both assumed that they had another 8 weeks to get ready for him. However when his partner was 32 weeks pregnant she started to feel increasingly uncomfortable. Michael was aware that she was having tests for her blood pressure and was increasingly uncomfortable, but was very surprised when he received a text early in the morning, saying that their baby was going to be delivered that day. 

He packed a bag quickly, and rushed to the hospital. After visits from lots of doctors, he was put in scrubs and allowed into the pre-op room while Helen X was put to sleep. He was then sent out to wait in a room down the corridor. There were over 10 doctors in the room when he left, but one of them kindly came down after 20 minutes to let him know that everything was OK and with some photos of the baby on his digital camera. He was then allowed in to see them after about 40 minutes. His partner was then sent to the high dependency unit (HDU) and his son up to the neo-natal ward, as he had been born at 32 weeks, 6 days.

His partner spent 2 days in HDU and a week on the post-natal ward before being allowed home. It was another 2 weeks before their baby was allowed home. He and his partner soon established a routine of visiting their baby every day and watching him slowly get stronger. Michael also focused on helping his partner get strong. They were both positive about the extra time that the baby’s stay gave them to rest and prepare – they would have preferred to have him home but it did allow them to get some sleep, get ready and prepare food for when he did come home. They did however find going in to visit him for 8 hours each day really exhausting. The interview was conducted when their baby was 14 weeks old, and they were preparing to travel home to Australia with him to visit family.
 

Michael thought that his wife’s doctors wanted to deliver their baby by caesarean section quite quickly but there were some delays waiting on blood results.

Michael thought that his wife’s doctors wanted to deliver their baby by caesarean section quite quickly but there were some delays waiting on blood results.

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We were probably down there for quite a few hours. She’d had another set of blood tests taken off and they were being sent to a lab to determine her platelet levels. That was something again I’d never heard of what a platelet was, and I didn’t understand what it did, but the doctors explained that. Also my partner who sort of works in the health industry herself. So part of me felt a bit more reassured that because there were lots of all these things which I’d never heard of. Part of me was sort of thinking, well I’m sure my partner has probably heard of a lot of these anyway. So if I’m not following everything exactly well that’s fine, I’ll ask her as soon as the doctors leave the room, so I wouldn’t feel like a real dummy for asking silly questions. So they were getting on to it. So the blood tests were sent off and we were waiting for those results and there was a slight mix up at the hospital, where I think some, well they were lost or they were misplaced. So getting the results back from those, sort of took an extra hour or two than what everyone had hoped.
 

Although Michael knew his wife had high blood pressure in her pregnancy, he wasn’t too worried about this at first as the test results didn’t seem too serious.

Although Michael knew his wife had high blood pressure in her pregnancy, he wasn’t too worried about this at first as the test results didn’t seem too serious.

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What was your first inkling that something was sort of medically going wrong?

I feel a little bit bad, but it wasn’t probably until the morning that she was diagnosed and then we had the baby a few hours later, so like I said there were four or five days where she started to look really quite uncomfortable. I still feel I had it in the back of my mind that this is probably to be expected. So although she’d gone into hospital five days beforehand or four days beforehand and they’d sort of done a few things. And they noticed some high blood pressure and a few other anomalies, she was, I was still sort of thinking at the back of my mind, well that’s probably to be expected, that’s fine. And the day before we had our baby she was in hospital again, and I think it was you know, she had a couple of things like, well they noticed the high blood pressure again, and they were deciding whether to put her on medication for that and I think they noticed a few things like some traces of protein in her urine. And a few other details like that. But still none of it, I’m not very medical at all. But a lot of these types of things sort of sounded quite normal. You know, I don’t know about protein in the urine. But I’m sort of thinking oh okay traces of protein in the urine, high blood pressure, yes, okay. That seems not fine, but you know, that doesn’t sound like an emergency yet.
 

Michael described what it was like seeing his baby son in hospital and preparing for when he could come home.

Michael described what it was like seeing his baby son in hospital and preparing for when he could come home.

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Well he wasn’t in a state to be brought home, so we needed to stay in there for that long. It also felt like it was difficult because whenever we wanted, you know, wanted to pick him up and give him a cuddle, he was always connected to… with lots of wires or tubes, through feeding so you never felt like you could just sort of freely pick him up and sort of give him a cuddle or anything like that. So that wasn’t too pleasant. But at the same time, he was getting fantastic care and it felt like this was, almost like a nice rehearsal or warm up to bringing him home. So we were going in there every day, spending, you know, a good eight hours in hospital with him, doing his feeding, doing his nappy changes for those eight hours and then at the end of those eight hours, we would then sort of come home and eat, sleep, wake up the next morning, and then head back to the hospital, and so it was incredibly exhausting. Spending those eight hours in the hospital, but it gave us a chance to come home, and actually have a night’s before then heading back there so we were trying to think of whether that was good or bad or not, but so we managed to have plenty, you know, well not plenty, but you know a nice amount of sleep, as soon as my partner sort of came home with me. But the days at the hospital seemed to be really, really exhausting.

What was exhausting about them?

You never felt well, well not many of the seats were like comfortable, and you always felt like you were standing up, looking over him, sort of holding his hand or something similar, rather than just sort of sitting down in a nice sofa. And you also felt just like you were on the go a lot, so things that I find a lot easier now, obviously initially changing a nappy takes a long time. So the first time changing him as well. Trying to put his little arms through little sleeves in some clothes. That was just, takes a long time to do.
 

Michael couldn’t stay in the operating theatre when his wife was under general anaesthetic. He was given some photographs of the baby.

Michael couldn’t stay in the operating theatre when his wife was under general anaesthetic. He was given some photographs of the baby.

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When I left the room there seemed to be at least ten people in there, and I got the impression that you know, one or two more might be coming in as well, so I didn’t, that didn’t panic me, but I was sort of surprised that we needed to have that many doctors or medical staff in there for the actual operation.

And how long… where did you go during…?

I went back down the hallway to the preparation room that we’d been in for the previous four or five hours.

Okay and how long did you have to wait there?

It was probably, 20, 25 minutes and one of the doctors had come in and told me that everything was okay. He was a sweet old man, he’d offered to take a camera into the operating theatre to take some photos for the birth. So that was nice. So he came in, initially after may be 20 minutes and sort of said. “Everything seems to have gone okay.” And I think he brought me one photo. No he brought back my digital camera, that’s what he did. He brought back my digital camera so I got to have a look at a couple of photos of our boy on the back of the camera, and then, I think he went away again. And so I spent some time looking at those. He came back with a printed out photo of our boy. So I think they must have had another camera that they took a photo of, and then he went away again, and then he came back a third time. So this was probably getting close to 40 minutes after I’d left the operating room. He came 40 minutes later saying that there’s, the family down the hallway’s missing someone. So got to walk back down the hall way and went in to see my partner cuddling our baby boy.
 

Michael recalled his emotions in the days after his son was born. It was difficult to bond initially with lots of medical equipment attached to the baby.

Michael recalled his emotions in the days after his son was born. It was difficult to bond initially with lots of medical equipment attached to the baby.

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Certainly as soon as he was born, the first few days, I probably felt quite strange and odd. When I was looking at him, I thought, oh this is a gorgeous baby, but it wasn’t really hitting me that it was my baby. So I’ve thought about that a little bit. I’m not really sure what it is. Was it the shock of suddenly waking up one morning to get a text message from my partner, saying that we’re having a baby? Was it the fact that I couldn’t be in there for the birth? I’ve thought about that quite a bit, because I was thinking, oh I don’t know if that’s significant or not, but you know, beforehand I hadn’t given the birth a great deal of thought, but I’d always sort of visioned that, you know, I’d be in with my partner, helping her, and then the baby would pop out and there are the three of us would be together. So what actually happened in reality was quite different. I was waiting in a room down the hallway, for a doctor to come and tell me it had happened. So, I don’t know if that was sort of part of it. Yes. And then there was also the feeling, of like I described earlier when you were in the neonatal area, and you’re picking up a baby that’s got lots of wires connected to it. You just sort of feel like, I don’t know, you’re a little bit restricted or… It was only once we really got to bring him home, and then just the shock had sort of worn off, well not worn off, but you know, we got over that, and then it was, a lot more enjoyable, once we’d got to bring him home.
 

Michael didn’t think there were any long-term health impacts for his son. However, Michael and his wife were facing the question of whether they will have more children in the future.

Michael didn’t think there were any long-term health impacts for his son. However, Michael and his wife were facing the question of whether they will have more children in the future.

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Well for him, I don’t know, I look at him and I think that he just seems to be-, obviously I’ve got very biased views, but I think he’s so perfect and there are a couple of things that being born that early, he’s maybe a little bit different from a full term baby, but they’re generally things that he’s either already outgrown or something that I feel he’ll outgrow anyway soon. So, I don’t sort of feel that it sort of restricted him in any ways. For Helen, it’s pre-eclampsia. So she, the professor that she went to see sort of advised her that she still has a reasonable risk of getting it for any second child that she might have, so that sort of is in the back of her mind trying to think of what that could mean. We probably always planned on wanting to have more than one child. And now, with that bit of information, we need to probably have a little think about whether we still want to or not.
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