Many returns

Mon 8th Sep 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Tonight our long summer holidays end. We've had an amazing time, visiting Scotland and Portugal, enjoying glorious sunshine in both, but tomorrow all three of us start again at school. I go back in my working capacity in I.T., Harry returns now in Upper School and Emily joins us for her first day at 'big school' in Reception.

How vividly I remember Harry's first day three years ago: shy and nervous, clinging to my arm. How quickly he learned to adore his teacher, an adoration Emily is already learning, before she has started, of the same teacher in the same classroom. How happy Emily will be. How proud a mother Jessica would have been.

But enough of holidays and school. I must also reverse the partially deliberate neglection of the blog and Jessica's Trust. I must pick up the reins and gallop into the enormous amount of work, the Charity Commission's queries, notes that need be written for the meetings I have and the speech I must deliver to a conference of midwives in October.

I feel recharged and energised, and as if I didn't already have enough reason to put my back into Jessica's Trust, I have heard from yet more families who have been deeply affected by childbed fever with horrendous long term illness. We must look beyond the statistics of maternal death to these uncounted cases of horrific suffering and pain from genital tract sepsis and its consequences.

In the meantime, my apologies for going AWOL and my warmest thanks to all those who have left messages of support and appreciation.

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Anniversary request

Mon 30th Jun 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Four years ago today, a good mother died unnecessarily from an archaic illness. The world may not have noticed immediately, but the three year old boy crying in his bed, the six day old girl feeding in her father's arms and the grieving widower did.

Together the three of us have kicked, screamed and cried at more than one time or another, not necessarily in synchronisation.

We are now building a new life for ourselves but a few things haven't changed in the years that have past: we don't like what happened, we miss Jessica and we don't want another son, daughter or husband to live through what we have.

All three of us, to the extent of the understanding that we each have, want to do what we can to prevent another mother's death from childbed fever, but we need your help.

On this fourth anniversary, we would like you to tell four (or more) people, who don't already know, about Jessica's Trust, what childbed fever is and what the symptoms of childbed fever are.

Please ask them to do the same as well. Thank you.

Ben, Harry and Emily. x

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So says the nurse

Mon 23rd Jun 2008 by Ben Palmer.

She mentioned Friday's Child last week, in comparison to a historical novel about childbed fever, and this morning I find that dovegreyreader has written about it more fully in her post, Friday's Child by Ben Palmer. I won't comment - it speaks for itself.

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In the grip

Tue 17th Jun 2008 by Ben Palmer.

I was sent an early copy of a new book, Touching Distance, last week. I was gripped by it from start to finish and it consumed most of my weekend.

I have also been alerted to a post by dovegreyreader who has also spotted the link between Touching Distance and Friday's Child.

Touching Distance is set in 1790, in the middle of an epidemic of childbed fever in Aberdeen. A young doctor, Alexander Gordon, discovers - and sacrifices his career and his marriage to publish the fact - that it is he, his peers and midwives who are spreading the disease.

To continue the brief history lesson, Oliver Wendell-Holmes published the same information in 1843. He too was ridiculed by his peers. A few years later, and Ignaz Semmelweis, drew the same conclusion, markedly reducing maternal death by using a chlorinated lime solution for hand washing. He too was ridiculed.

Medicine has moved on: in the West, hygiene practice means that childbed fever does not reach epidemic rates of occurrence - it is not being spread by doctors or midwives. What has not changed is that streptococcus, the cause that Gordon et al couldn't have known of, is still with us. It may wax and wane in prevalence, but it is in us, on us and with us at all times. It is still causing deaths from childbed fever.

We cannot assume that hand washing makes our mothers safe. We can't vaccinate and we can't wash it out of the world, but we can spot the symptoms of its infection while there is still time to treat a mother before she requires long term hospitalisation, a hysterectomy or she dies.

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Thank you

Fri 13th Jun 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Since the launch of Friday's Child and last weekend's coverage I have been flooded with comments, emails, letters and calls. It is so moving and rewarding to receive them all, and I may be slow but I am getting up to date with replying.

Trying to keep up makes me think that I am not giving a full and warranted response in each and every case, so I am sorry.  I wouldn't want anybody to think that their message is unread, unappreciated or unimportant because they all are.

Every story of infection is moving and upsetting - I want to cry at them all - but please keep them coming because it is important for everybody to see how often it does happen.

Every message left in reaction to Friday's Child means so much as well. I wasn't and am not looking for praise or thanks in writing it, but it is wonderful to know that my efforts are appreciated. If either the campaign or the personal story helps save a life then I will be another step closer to the goal I seek.

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Double dose

Sat 7th Jun 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Yesterday's extract of Friday's Child in the Daily Mail caused a huge response, which still stuns me this morning.

To everyone who has contacted me: Thank you. I am replying as fast as I can!

The extract was from my book Friday's Child which is the story of what happened back then. Today the Guardian has printed an interview, After Jessica, that is as much about now and what my hopes are.

I'm flattered that the article has been put on the front of the Family supplement.

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Extracted

Fri 6th Jun 2008 by Ben Palmer.

This morning I read the extract of Friday's Child, in the Daily Mail. It's strange, reading my words in such a condensed form. They are my words, and it is my story, but only such a small part of it.

It is humbling to read the comments people have left under the story, and so many. Really humbling.

The trouble with it being so shortened is that, inevitably, there wasn't room for many details, so it saddens me to be criticised, even ever so slightly, for not doing something that in fact we did.

We, Jessica and I, believed that she was being properly looked after and that we were doing everything right. We trusted the system to look after her, and when we were given reassurance, we took it and carried on. How I wish we hadn't.

That's all in the past, though. What matters is that it doesn't happen again.

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Hot off the press

Thu 5th Jun 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Publication day is here. This time a year ago I was discussing what would make a suitable title for my book with my agent, prior to submitting a 30,000 word proposal to a handful of publishing editors.

Twelve months and 60,000 words later, it is in stock, on the shelves and on sale. Tomorrow there's a 3,000 word extract in a national newspaper and on Saturday another is printing an interview I did with them a couple of weeks ago. I can barely believe it's true.

Last night I went out for an extremely nice dinner with friends, stopping at their house for glass of champagne.

'Look children, it's Ben's book,' Sally said.
'Wow. You're famous,' was her son's response, before climbing over the fence to play in the neighbour's garden.

It'd be easy to enjoy the 'fame' but that's not why I wrote Friday's Child.

I emailed some friends earlier, to remind them that they could buy a copy if they felt inclined, and got a response back from someone I met directly because of Jessica's death.

His email read, 'Would you believe this morning I have been out for our first scan at 12 weeks – thanks so much for raising awareness of childbed fever on behalf of this prospective Dad!'

The book is dedicated to Harry and Emily, but it is on the shelves and in the press for all prospective Mums and Dads. That's why I did it and I hope it saves lives.

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Count down

Sun 1st Jun 2008 by Ben Palmer.

The coming week is going to be a very busy one. I've got a pile of work on my desks - both at home and in the office in which I have a corner that I call my own.

It's also book launch week, and there's a bit of press coverage lined up too.

Obviously I won't be sad if Friday's Child sells a few copies or more, but the real happiness that I yearn for will come through the people who read of Jessica's plight and are moved enough to spread her story.

If every reader tells their colleagues, family and friends, then it will be a lot of people who know about the continuing danger of childbed fever and infection in otherwise healthy new mothers.

I really want it to be the start of the end of this cruel and un-prejudiced killer. Please, help me to make Jessica's untimely and unnecessary death one that counts.

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Long delivery

Fri 30th May 2008 by Ben Palmer.

They've been a long time in the making, but the poster and leaflet that we've been working on are now ready.

They have been reviewed and amended by our new panel of medical advisors, to whom I am extremely grateful, and I hope that they will help to spread the awareness message about childbed fever.

The downloads are on the Poster & Leaflet page, or individually here:

Poster PDF (0.9MB)

Leaflet PDF (1.16MB)

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What is childbed fever?

Childbed fever is an infection of the womb in new mothers which can lead to septicaemia. If left untreated infection will cause organ failure and death - even in young, fit mothers.
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What are the symptoms? »
Childbed fever: the facts »

What's the aim?

We would like every parent and every midwife and doctor to know that childbed fever is still a very real threat to a mother's life.
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Can I help? »

Who is Jessica?

Jessica Palmer was a Mum. She died in June 2004, at 34 years old, of childbed fever caused by Group A streptococcus.
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This website contains general information about childbed fever. The information is not complete or comprehensive. You should not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about childbed fever (or any other medical condition) you should consult your doctor or other healthcare provider; and if you think you may be suffering from childbed fever (or any other medical condition) you should seek immediately medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.
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