Showing posts tagged with: 'death'

The petition's response

Wed 14th Nov 2007 by Ben Palmer.

At long last the Government has posted its response to the petition I started seven months ago.

I never expected there to be any sort of substance to it, but even so it is still alarmingly arrogant:

"Maternal deaths in the UK are extremely rare. Each is a tragedy, which is why the Government takes any maternal deaths seriously and funds the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths (CEMD). Each avoidable maternal death is one too many."

Funding the CEMD is not actually taking action. The CEMD only produces a report of recommendations. With regard to sepsis, it has been making the same recommendations in report after report, to little or no effect. The incidence of sepsis/childbed fever/puerperal fever/whatever you care to call it has been rising since 1984, and a worrying number of healthcare professionals are ignorant of its cause, symptoms and devastating outcome.

"In the last published report of the CEMD for 2000-02, only five of the 13 women who died from infection, out of more than the 2million who delivered safely, died from what is known as puerperal fever (sometimes also known as child bed fever) after a normal delivery."

The other eight women died of the same disease, with the same symptoms, their deaths are just labelled differently because they had a caesarian. Their lives are just as important, which is why I prefer to include them and talk about 13 deaths (which accounts for 12% of all deaths that were a direct result of pregnancy/delivery during 2000-2002.)

These deaths are avoidable, so saying that it is a small proportion of the safe deliveries is arrogant, insulting and misleading. None of those women should be dead. It is not an acceptable percentage of risk. When talking about a life, one is too many. This point was made in the first paragraph of the response, but obviously not meant as it was countered by this statistic. It sounds pretty much like Ivan Lewis' response to a parliamentary question my MP tabled.

"The CEMD's next report, Saving Mothers' Lives, due to be published on December 4, will update healthcare professionals on clinical guidelines for the management of serious illnesses affecting pregnant or recently delivered mothers. The recommendations of the report are circulated to all maternity professionals and, in future, their implementation will be audited by the Healthcare Commission. Since the last report was published, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has also published clinical guidelines for both birth and post-natal care."

The CEMD's next report will again report on the mothers whose lives were not saved, including Jessica. The title of the report is again misleading and insulting spin. I have written about it before, here. The bottom line though, is that it will be another report full of statistics that won't actually address the issue or achieve anything. See above for comment on the perpetual lack of attention to these reports.

All I wanted was the Government's recognition of the unnecessary waste of life and a positive determination to drag us out of the dark ages and protect our mothers. Tonight I feel stupid for even bothering to hope for that. Tomorrow I'll do something myself.


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Dear NHS, please wake up

Sun 16th Sep 2007 by Ben Palmer.


Aarrggh. I could scream.

I heard a story at lunch today that made my skin crawl. A mother (a friend of a friend and I don't know her, so I won't use specifics) was unwell a couple of days after delivering a baby in a London hospital. Told that she had tendonitis in her foot, she was sent home.

Progressively worse, she took herself to A&E and demanded to be taken seriously as she couldn't possibly be feeling that ill just because of a foot complaint.

When humoured by the staff and given proper attention, she was then told that if she was any more unwell she would have been dead. She was treated in Intensive Care for two and a half weeks and told that it might be up to a year before she was back to full health.

What (as if you need to ask) was wrong? She was suffering from Puerperal Sepsis. Childbed Fever. The hospital were amazed - they 'didn't think it still happened'.

When will somebody, anybody, wake up and listen? Mothers' health should not be ignored like this. Mothers do still get Childbed Fever, and yes, some of them do die. Those that don't seem to live by the skin of their teeth. I have almost lost count of the number of stories that I have heard in the last few years and although most (but not all) of these stories have happy endings, nobody, let alone a mother after childbirth, should be getting so ill in the 21st century.

If I've heard of all these stories, why hasn't the NHS, and why are they not getting the picture. How many more Jessica's have to die before they will?


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It is strange

Wed 22nd Aug 2007 by Ben Palmer.

"Does it feel strange, having people read about your life?" I was asked today by a Mum. "I feel it's a bit voyeuristic reading your blog."

I hadn't really thought about it that way. I know my parents, siblings, friends and some of the Mums and teachers at both Harry's and Emily's school read my blog - sometimes that's the only way people know what I'm up to, because I'm totally useless with a telephone and can be fairly forgetful about email as well sometimes. My web stats page tells me others read it too, but I often think of it as a number, not real people.

Every blogger has their own reason, and mine is two-fold. I want people to know about, and remember, puerperal sepsis: there is no reason or need for a mother in Britain (or any developed nation) to die from it, so fore-warned is fore-armed.

I also like writing about my children - they mean everything to me - and I like writing about the highs and lows of being a single parent and about coping, every day, with children who say things like, "I don't have a Mummy, 'cos she died and went to live in heaven."

It's not meant to be a sob story, though people do. It's meant to be a taste of a strange life that, God forbid, most will never know. Next time your other half has a go at you for forgetting to do something, for doing the wrong thing or just generally stuffing up; relish it - it keeps your feet on the ground, and proves that you're loved. Well it did for me, and it's one of the things I miss most.


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Missing Mummy

Thu 2nd Aug 2007 by Ben Palmer.

jessica.jpgFor the first time in her little life, Emily just came up to me and said, "Daddy, I want my Mummy."

'Mummy' is just a concept and a photograph on the bedroom wall to Emily. She has grown up not knowing what it is to have a mother, just that she was once loved by a beautiful woman.

Harry's pain is lessening as he adjusts to life without her, and I've always feared that Emily had yet to feel her pain. Perhaps she's just starting to, at almost the exact age that Harry did.

"I know you want Mummy," I said as Emily sat on my knee, "Harry and Daddy want Mummy too. We all want Mummy, but you know where Mummy is, don't you?"

"Mummy's upstairs," Emily told me brightly and knowingly.

Upstairs in heaven with the angels; Mummy is an angel. Or did Emily just mean the photograph?


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Deliver us from this disaster

Mon 23rd Jul 2007 by Ben Palmer.

cot-hospital.jpgSo far I've always said that Maternity care in this country is excellent for babies and sub standard for mothers. The reasons for this are obvious, but it goes wider than Jessica and our family. So many of Jessica's friends have said that they were not adequately looked after post-natally, both in hospital and at home afterwards although, luckily, no permanent damage was done.

I've just watched Channel 4's Dispatches programme, 'Undercover Mother', and I'm not so sure any more. It showed that babies are also suffering from inadequately resourced Maternity services.

A few months ago BBC1 showed a Panorama programme, 'Midwives Undercover', which ended with the covertly recorded line from a midwife that said that nobody would sit up until they lost a mother. Well wake up and sit up: healthy mothers like Jessica are dying as well as babies. Neither baby nor mother is expendable, neither's loss should be budgeted for nor tolerated.

Why is this government ignoring the danger that we all; rich/poor, black/white, educated/uneducated, northern/southern, married/unmarried face. Childbirth is a traumatic and dangerous event for mother and baby, and it must be provided for. To Gold Standard.

This country is not going to stop having babies, and nobody's going to limit procreation to fit a government budget. The NHS must look at the number of babies being born, look at the level of care required to ensure the safety and health of its patients and plan accordingly. Now. Not in nine months time.


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Everlasting love

Tue 17th Jul 2007 by Ben Palmer.

I've been reading 'Danny the Champion of the World' to Harry and Emily at bedtime for the last week or so; sometimes one, sometimes two chapters - depending on our combined excitement.

It's a book I loved reading as a child, but I probably haven't picked it up in over twenty years. The images and memories are as strong as ever but every now and then, this time around, it leaves me with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

Danny never knew his mother and, when his father speaks strongly and fondly of her, I can't help but cast a sideways glance at Harry and then Emily.

Harry's excitement at the next chapter is overriding, but I've had to explain a few things. Firstly, that I'm not a poacher, and secondly, that I would never, ever leave him (or Emily) alone in the house at night, nor with a babysitter that they didn't already know.

I feel that some things don't need explaining to Harry. He understands that love is enduring and can be felt even when unspoken. I hope that the same sense is growing inside Emily.


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Blooming marvellous

Wed 11th Jul 2007 by Ben Palmer.

Jessica’s flowersI just made a random observation while I was out in the garden with a cigarette in the fading light: our garden is mostly out of bloom. It was always very much Jessica's garden, and it is true, I have let it get slightly out of hand and overgrown, but the roses and shrubs that we planted together were spring and early summer flowerers.

All of our birthdays; Jessica's, the children's and mine are between late May and July. Our wedding was in late July and her death and funeral were before our anniversary.

This is Jessica's time of year and I will relish that thought tomorrow, three years after I buried her in that fine oak coffin on my father's birthday.


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Mummys in Heaven

Sun 1st Jul 2007 by Ben Palmer.

We've had the Diana Concert on all afternoon, and Harry picked up on it quite early on. I explained about Diana and who she was and who Princes William and Harry are. Harry picked up the story with, "I've heard of her, and their Daddy's going to be king when The Queen dies." No flies on him.

Then we got around to why there was a concert for her birthday and why she wasn't there. We talked once again about people dying young and what a beautiful and kind princess Diana was.

"So, you see, Harry," I finished, "Even a Mummy in the Royal Family can die too soon." There was just a glimmer of recognition in his eyes; that it could happen to anyone, as he looked back to William and Harry.


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Remember the good times

Sat 30th Jun 2007 by Ben Palmer.

Jessica loved Lily of the ValleyI've kept my darkest thoughts at bay this week, unlike last year, but it's really hard to do today. Jessica was on life support from the very early hours of today, three years ago, and she died now.

I can still remember how it felt three, two and one year ago, and it isn't the same now. The pain is still there but not quite in the same stabbing way.

Anyone who doesn't know bereavement will say that I'm 'moving on', but you don't move on, ever. You learn to live with your bereavement, hard as it is, and you carry it like an amputation. Most days now I'm just aware of my missing limb and work around it with a sadness, and some days like today it hurts like the day it was ripped off without anaesthesia.

A lovely and kind card was just delivered from a friend of Jessica's, of ours: 'We're always thinking of Jess and remembering the great times we spent together,' it reads. That's what I'm doing today as well, but it's hard not to also think how the good times still could be.


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Faith in healers

Mon 25th Jun 2007 by Ben Palmer.

"What's an infection, Daddy?" Harry interrupted the bed time story. "How do you get an infection, Daddy?"

No prizes for guessing what was on his mind, but satisfied with my answers, he tucked himself back down again.

They're questions he has asked time and time again, and I always explain them as accurately as I can in six year old terms, but I can see he's struggling to understand why Mummy died because of her infection. Why, if doctors (real or make believe, like Emily with her new doctor's kit) are there to make people better with stethoscopes and medicine, did his mother not get better?

He is obviously not getting it to add up, but the only thing left for me to tell him is that the doctors (in his world this would include midwives as well) could have made Mummy better, but didn't recognise that she was ill until it was too late to save her.

I know that when the penny drops he will be angry. So, so angry. I won't be able to say he shouldn't be and it's going to be very painful for us all.

What will I say to them both if one of us gets even slightly ill? That the doctor will make us better? Will they believe me? Pretty unlikely, I would guess.


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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.
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.