Showing posts tagged with: 'doctors'


Why, Daddy?

Sun 16th Mar 2008 by Ben Palmer.

We just had a lovely weekend away, and drove back to London, in heavy traffic, in time for tea. The trouble was, Emily and Harry were so worn out from all the fun that they slept most of the way back.

Roll on to bedtime, and Harry can't sleep. An hour of requests for a cup of milk, a footstep here etc etc, and suddenly it became a little sob from the top of the stairs, so I went up.

There he was, sitting on the step with his two photographs of Jessica laid neatly side by side; the ones that travel with him, and always sit beside his bed.

'I just want to talk about Mummy.'

'OK darling, of course we can. What would you like to talk about?'

'Why did Mummy die? What is an infection anyway? Why do people die too early? How did the doctors know she was dead?'

I tried to field the questions as best I could, in suitable language, without causing extra alarm, worry or distress, but still they came.

'What medicine did they give Mummy? How did she actually die? What other question would be a good one to ask, Daddy?'

I can't lie to Harry about what happened, he has a right to know. But not at six years old, surely? I can't even tell him that all of the answers lie in four lever arch files, each three inches or so thick, full of medical notes, charts, statements, legal and medical analysis and argument - he'll want to read it, and then he'll get angry when I don't let him.

All I can do is promise him that the doctors did everything they could to save his Mummy, after she was admitted to A&E and once in Intensive Care. This reassures him, even if his curiousity isn't satisfied.

One day he's going to ask about before she went to hospital, and he's going to be so angry.

'There's nothing we can do to bring Mummy back, Harry, but that doesn't mean we have to like it.'

'What's Jessica's trust, Daddy?'

'It's Daddy's work - trying to stop other Mummy's dying like yours did.'

'What is child fever, anyway?'

'Childbed Fever? It's what Mummy died of. It's an infection that can kill you after you have a baby.'

'Why Daddy? Why did God want Mummy to die? He controls everything, so he shouldn't have let her die.'

I wish I knew all the answers, like Harry expects me to.

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Woman's Hour - Childbed Fever

Wed 23rd Jan 2008 by Ben Palmer.

I've just been alerted to a Woman's Hour discussion on childbed fever this morning. I listened to a recording of it on the BBC website.

The author of a new book, The Bone Garden discusses childbed fever with the presenter and a professor, but in the context of the past. They highlight the pain and agony of dying from this terrible disease, and how doctors used to be the cause of epidemics - by spreading it - but unfortunately there was no mention of the underlying natural causes - so often Group A streptococcus, a community bacterium.

Towards the end there is recognition of the fact that 16 women died of it in the mid 1990s, and that one woman (Jessica, I wondered) died of it in 2004. Why not go further and quote the more up to date statistics of 1997-99, 2000-02 and 2003-05 or mention the two more recent cases of childbed fever in Winchester last December as well?

I hope that when Friday's Child is published I may get the opportunity to bring the story up to date and highlight its continuance.

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Hard labour: The maternity service in crisis

Tue 11th Sep 2007 by Ben Palmer.

Hard labour: The maternity service in crisis in the Daily Mail

This is a shocking tale of maternity services in the NHS. It's a story of another mother given a rough ride. It's a miracle she's alive - this was a catalogue of disasters.

Why is a temperature in a mother always excused as something minor instead of being read as the sign of an infection as it once was?

That's not to mention her detached placenta, her baby's distress and increased heart rate, the delayed pain relief and emergency caesarian.

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Why Mothers Die when nobody's Saving Mothers' Lives

Mon 13th Aug 2007 by Ben Palmer.

The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH) publishes triennial reports reviewing all cases of maternal death. The most recently published report, 'Why Mothers Die' is for the period 2000-2002, and I have often quoted (both in these pages and to the press) the statistics it found and also its recommendations, few of which seem to be taken up, as they are repeated report after report in alarmingly consistent language.

The next report, for 2003-2005, is now to be called "Saving Mothers' Lives", as I have just learned from CEMACH's updated website, and it will be published this December.

This sounds to me like spin. The report, by it's very nature, highlights the cases of mothers who have died, not the ones who have had trouble free experiences, or even 'near misses'. If they do plan to discuss cases where the NHS has saved an ill mother, I could let them know of many horrendous near miss stories that have filtered through to me, but I suspect that - whatever the name - it will be the same report on the same causes of the deaths of the mothers that weren't saved.

If this Department of Health sponsored report wants to pat its master on the back, it should do so elsewhere. Jessica's case will (confidentially of course) be included in the statistics, reviews and summaries, and I don't for a moment believe that she will be alone in its 'Genital tract sepsis' pages.

In fact, I highly suspect that there won't be much of an improvement on previous triennia, but I'd love to be wrong. The bottom line, though is that what we and the NHS need to know is Why Mothers Die and how to stop them dying.

Whatever the findings, please let them be acted on this time.

Reminder: the petition closes in mid-October, so there's still time to help it make a difference in advance of December's report.

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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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Doctors are gentlemen, and gentlemen's hands are clean.

Fri 22nd Jun 2007 by Ben Palmer.

I've just been, as I sometimes do, trawling the Internet for stories, comment and opinion on puerperal sepsis with the help of my friend. It really bothers me that there is so much opinion, comment and belief that childbed fever/puerperal fever/puerperal sepsis (call it what you will) is still caused by lack of hygiene and of handwashing.

Yes, if a mother has an internal examination by someone who has been performing autopsies without washing their hands in chlorinated lime, they're in trouble. What Ignaz Semmelwies discovered was the cause of the spread, in epidemic proportions, of sepsis.

Group A Streptococcus is, as far as I'm aware, the biggest puerperal sepsis causing bacterium. It is also naturally occuring on and within many of us quite harmlessly. The attitude that handwashing, sterile gloves and the passing of centuries has rid us of the original problem is at the heart of Jessica's problem.

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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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