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Care during pregnancy was 'above and beyond'

By Somerset Guardian  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

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New mum Sarah Button's smile says it all as she celebrates the birth of her baby James who was born against all the odds after she suffered a potentially life-threatening illness during her pregnancy.

For eight-and-a-half months Sarah's life was put on hold after she suffered a rare illness that effects one per cent of women who suffer from pregnancy sickness.

Baby James was born five months ago by emergency caesarean after an anxious pregnancy when Sarah was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) which left her mainly housebound – bedridden, unable to eat and drink or tolerate light and noise.

Both Sarah and her partner Richard said they are full of praise for Sirona Care and Health's community IV therapy nurse Emma Moxham, who has pioneered a service that allowed Sarah to be treated at home in Midsomer Norton rather than spend her pregnancy in hospital.

In fact she is the only person in the country to have been able to be treated at home according to the Pregnancy Sickness Support (PSS) charity.

Sarah said: "I was very excited to find out I was pregnant. But within days of finding out I was pregnant the nausea started and on that first day I was sick 17 times.

"I couldn't get out of bed or keep anything down, it was then I soon began to realise this wasn't normal. The next day I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

"HG is a condition at the extreme end of the pregnancy sickness spectrum and it was potentially life threatening for me and the baby."

Sarah, a health care professional herself with Sirona which covers Bath and North East Somerset, said that within a week of finding out she was pregnant she had her first hospital admission as she needed to be put on a drip to replace the fluids she was losing.

At her worst she was vomiting up to 50 times a day, she could not eat, her body was dehydrating and weakening and she needed help with the basics of life from washing to dressing.

In the course of two months she was admitted to hospital six times with specialists saying she was one of the worse cases they had seen.

When Sarah was nine weeks pregnant she started to take steroids, she also had to have the conversation with specialists as to whether to terminate the pregnancy if the illness got worse.

Sarah explained: "I already knew that if I had another pregnancy the same would happen, or even be worse so this was my one and only chance to have the baby we always wanted. Luckily I was able to continue.

"The worst thing about all of it was being completely out of control.

"Movement, light and noise made the condition worse so all I could do was lie still in bed in the dark. The only time the nausea left me was when I slept.

"It was really hard to be excited when I had this horrible illness – all I wanted was for this hell to end, it was difficult to view myself as being pregnant. I just saw myself as being really ill.

"I had gone from being a person who never had time off work, was very fit, very healthy who didn't take medication. It was a really isolating condition.

"Throughout the pregnancy I had to take more than 2,000 tablets to control the sickness, one drug included one used to stop vomiting for those on chemotherapy so I worried about the effects of the medication on the baby.

"I really thought I was going to die as I felt so ill and there were several nights when I thought if I go to sleep, I'm not going to wake up.

"I was frightened to look at any baby things until I could hold him and knew he was OK. I couldn't imagine us being here together like we are today."

The PSS charity put Sarah in touch with a volunteer who had gone through the same experience and she became a lifeline.

"She had survived it," said Sarah. "She knew what I was going through. Unless you have lived with someone and watched it, it is really hard to believe. I had someone to talk to who really understood."

Around half way through Sarah's pregnancy, Emma was briefing GPs about Sirona's new service which aimed to give intravenous treatment at home to avoid hospital admissions.

Among them was Sarah's GP, who asked Emma if she could help Sarah.

Emma said: "When I met Sarah she was a shell of who she is today and everything felt like a mountain for her and I could see how hard it was for her.

"The family environment was just amazing and having the IV fluids at home meant Sarah could stay at home.

"My job is to help people stay at home by supporting GPs to deliver acute care and administer the medication that patients would normally have to go to hospital to receive such as IV fluids, IV medications and blood transfusions."

Emma was in weekly and sometimes daily contact providing treatment at home for Sarah and when Sarah finishes maternity leave they hope to work together to help others who suffer from HG – Sarah is also a volunteer mentor with PSS.

Within minutes of James being born, the condition left Sarah and while some sufferers experience depression or post-traumatic stress disorder Sarah hasn't, for which she is thankful.

Sarah said: "If it wasn't for Emma, my GP, mum, dad and Rich there is no way I could have got through it. I will never forget what they did for me. If it wasn't for them there wouldn't be a baby or me here today."

And she nominated Emma for the chairman's award for innovation at the recent Sirona Awards for Excellence for the "above and beyond" care she received.

But as she cradles James she says: "I would do it all again for him. The love I feel for him is such that everything I went through was worth every moment to see him smile."

However, she and Richard have had to accept that James will never have a brother or sister as Sarah has been told the condition would return again and be even worse next time.

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