Showing posts tagged with: 'infection'


Dear NHS, please wake up

Sun 16th Sep 2007 by Ben Palmer.

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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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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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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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Death by any other name

Sun 10th Jun 2007 by Ben Palmer.

I've now received so many messages, through comments on this blog and mostly by email, from women who have survived Puerperal Sepsis (or Childbed Fever) that it deserves comment.

Often the sepsis is due to retained placenta, but equally often - as in Jessica's case - it is not. To underline the problem, Jessica had a totally normal, textbook delivery. In the aftermath of her death and during the legal investigation every aspect of delivery and immediate post delivery care was scrutinised and no fault was found.

A perfect, complication free delivery is no guarantee of safety from sepsis. Jessica died because Group A Streptococcus invaded her uterus. Group A Strep is a relatively common bacteria - 'Strep Throat' is a more common manifestation. What is amiss is not to recognise the symptoms of Group A Strep when it takes a hold. It is a nasty and highly toxic organism and unless the symptoms of infection are caught early enough, death is a very real outcome.

Whatever the cause, infection in mothers should ring alarm bells, and the trigger should be any sign of fever or general feeling of unwell. Do not put a feverish temperature down to mother's milk coming in unless you are certain it cannot be infection.

When I was born my mother and I spent over a week in hospital so any infection would, had it occurred, in all probability have been picked up quickly enough. The fact that mothers are now turfed out of their beds in as little as six hours does not mean that the risk of childbed fever has diminished in any way.

It is purely complacency and cost saving. The risk is as strong as ever, and the stories that I have heard of so-called 'dirty' mothers with an infection pleading to be readmitted is heart rending. All too often it has been an understanding family GP with experience of working in third world countries that has insisted on admission and thereby saved the poor woman's life.

It makes me weep to know that there may be another Jessica any day. The reality is that there probably have been several, but I just haven't heard yet.

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It could be you

Fri 18th May 2007 by Ben Palmer.

“Is anybody listening?” I sometimes wonder. Do people think I'm just a sad old widower having a rant?

Yes, I've ranted to myself and to my friends in the past, but I've come through that. I know what childbed fever means, and I know the ecstatic highs of birth followed post haste by the devastation of death. I know the roller coaster of fear, anger, despair, self doubt and guilt that follows it, and I know the utter waste and needlessness of loss of life in this way, but am I not explaining it?

The NHS machine has treated Jessica's death as a statistic, collateral damage maybe, but has it learned? Have we as parents learned?

There really is no reason at all for women to die from infection after childbirth. It can stop and I hope it will stop, but first we have to accept that it is happening. Jessica's story is not just a sad tale worth a moment's attention and maybe a brief tear, it is an opportunity to reflect and to drag ourselves out of the dark ages.

Universally, the reaction to her death has been the same, whether in her best friends, a doctor or an internet-using car builder, but that isn't enough; we actually have to do something in the face of our doubts that anything can change.

If the end of childbed fever meant years of expensive research, new wonder drugs and hi-tech equipment I could understand the 'nothing will change' mentality, but none of that is needed. The research was done years ago by Ignaz Semmelweis, the drugs needed are ordinary antibiotics, and the hi-tech equipment? A thermometer. The only difference between his time and now are the hygiene standards that luckily prevent the epidemics of old. Otherwise it's still exactly the same old disease.

So, know that childbed fever is still real, believe that it doesn't have to be, and understand that yes – it could happen to you.

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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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