MESSAGE FROM TANIA HOLMES TO ALL MUMS AND MUMS-TO-BE (from our archive March 2010): “It was New Years Eve and I was babysitting all of my friends kids. No, it wasn’t because I’m the kindest person in the world, it was because I was 35 weeks pregnant so thought id do them a favour I could claim back later on! It was my first baby and I knew it was a boy. I was so excited and couldn’t wait for my Blakey Boy to arrive.

I was sitting at my friend Ninas kitchen table when all of a sudden I felt a gush of water between my legs and shouted up to my friend, Nina that I thought my waters had broken. She was as surprised as I was and promptly phoned round the girls to inform them that they no longer had the night off! My Mum lives in France and was going to be at the birth along with my friend Jenny. I’d been due to be induced at 37 weeks due to having Obstetric Choloastatis.

But now as it was New Years Eve it was doubtful she’d be able to get here on time. I was gutted she wasn’t going to be there. My birthing partner Jenny arrived within 10 minutes and we soon on the road in Nina’s car to the hospital.

When we arrived at the hospital I was taken by a junior doctor and a midwife to be examined. They confirmed that my waters had broken but as I was not having contractions they sent me home approximately an hour later at around 10pm telling me not to return until I was in unbearable pain. I felt this was a little odd as during my pregnancy I was on medication and monitored weekly for my rare liver condition (OC), making me a high risk patient. At about 1am I began to feel an uncomfortable sensation in my tummy that only got worse over the next few hours.

At 8.45am after hours of bathing and crawling around my lounge on all fours, I gave in and called the delivery suite who said ‘Ah! Miss Holmes, we were just about to call to you and ask you to come in. Can you come back now please?’ I hastily agreed as I was now in need of pain relief. We called my auntie who lived locally to drive us to the hospital and on the way we discussed how odd it was for a hospital to ask a women in labour to come back in, any woman who has delivered a baby will know that this is highly unusual.

When I was examined by the new team of midwives (a shift change had occurred between my visits) I was dismayed to be told I was only 1cm dilated, again any woman who has delivered a baby will know that 1cm equals ‘go home’. However, this team of midwives decided to keep me in the hospital despite my low dilation. Over the next few hours or so I was still not dilating further so was put on a drip to speed up labour and was recommended an epidural which I accepted. My labour was finally underway and at 8pm there was another shift change and a new midwife was assigned to me. At 11.45 my son Blake made his grand entrance into the world as a new years day baby after 30 hours of labour. He weighed a healthy 5lb 6oz, not bad for 5 weeks premature. It was explained to me that as Blake was little and wouldn’t breast feed he would need to go to the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU).

When I awoke I went into SCBU to see my son where I again tried to feed him but he would not latch on so the nurse fed him through a tube up his nose. I stayed with Blake until visiting hours when I went to see my guests. I felt rather frustrated and envious of the other new mothers who were able to pass their babies around for cuddles. Nina, who had brought me to the hospital on New Years Eve suggested taking her camera into SCBU to make a video of Blake to show off. When I arrived a nurse was trying to feed Blake through his nose tube but he appeared very agitated and was making a strange grunting sound that I had never heard from a baby before. He looked different in some way but I could not put my finger on why this was, he would also not feed.

I asked the nurse, ‘What is wrong with my baby? Why is he making that strange grunting noise?’ The nurse agreed that he didn’t seem right and maybe she should call the pediatrician. I agreed and asked for him to be called immediately. I returned to my friends and showed them my 2 videos of Blake and they agreed with my concern that he didn’t seem quite right. A short while later the pediatrician came to my cubicle and asked me if my friends could leave as Blake was ‘poorly’. He was holding my notes and asking me if I had Group B Strep, I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about as I had never even heard of this condition and thought that maybe he was confused with my OC diagnosis. He was adamant that I had GBS and kept pointing to a section in my notes where somebody had written ‘GBS ?’

Implying that they were unaware whether I had this GBS or not, I was not given any further information regarding GBS and the pediatrician told me that I would have to wait for news on Blake’s condition. I called my auntie and asked her to come to the hospital which she did. Some time later I was informed that Blake would need IV antibiotics but no further explanation was given regarding why. I was allowed in to see him for a while and was distraught to see him with a IVAB going into his tiny arm, I could only think of my own discomfort several hours before when I had my own IV in my adult arm.

I was taken to a little room off the main ward with my aunty and told that they thought Blake had GBS. They told me that Blake would need to go to a special baby Intensive Care Unit in Paddington and that he’d need to go in a special ambulance that I wouldn’t be able to go in with him. This was awful, all I could think was he would die in the ambulance without me.

My Mum had now arrived in England and I had to tell her to get to the hospital immediately as Blake was in a bad way. By the time she got there to see him my poor boy had been put on a ventilator and had bandage wrapped round his eyes. She never got to see her first born grandchild looking as he should have, like he did for those for the 17hrs before it was noticed he was ill.

This is when I met the head pediatrician who had been called to the emergency. As soon as I met her I knew it was really serious. She was very professional and finally someone explained to me what was going on. I would later almost feel sorry for her as she was called in the try and fix a long line of mistakes by staff caring for Blake before her. She said Blake has contracted GBS and he had now developed septicemia as a result of it. After a short visit, we were again asked to leave the SCBU and return to our room until they either knew more or the ambulance arrived to take him.

Sadly there never was an ambulance. Blake’s condition deteriorated rapidly from then on. We were all waiting in anguish when a midwife came in and asked us to come to the ward quickly. We all ran. As myself, my mum and my 2 aunties entered the room the head pediatrician was injecting Blake with adrenalin, but it was too late. She turned to us and explained that they’d done everything they could but Blake’s system was too weak to deal with the infection and was shutting down. He was mottling from the septicemia now, his skin tinted with purple. I was told that the machine was keeping him alive and that I would need to turn it off.

I was asked if id like to hold him before he went, a stupid question. I held my little boy I my arms for an hour but couldn’t find the will to give him back, let alone turn his life support off; it was like being asked to end my own sons life. In the end they asked me if I’d like to have him christened to which I agreed. Although I am not a believer I found this a comforting way to let go. A tad hypocritical I know, but my family who were present were all believers and it seemed the least I could do for my boy. I asked that after the vicar said that last prayer they turned the machine off.

I was holding Blake the whole way through and made sure the monitors were turned round so I couldn’t hear them beep when he flat-lined and turn the screen so I couldn’t see. Now everyone’s prayed to God, when they don’t truly believe in him, at times of hurt and upset and that’s exactly what I was doing then. Please God, please don’t let me boy die, make him breathe on his own when they turn his machine off, please please, please. This was not to be and after making several little gasping noises my tiny beautiful boy slipped away from me forever.

I’d kind of already planned that as soon as this happened I was leaving the hospital immediately so I discharged myself and promptly left. Some people may find this heartless but Blake was dying from septicemia, poisoning of the blood, so now that the machine had been turned off it would only be a short while until his whole body went purple and blue. I didn’t want to remember my son like this. I’d said my devastating goodbye. Now I wanted to get away from the place where it had happened.

The following day my mother and I went in to see the head pediatrician who confirmed Blake had died of GBS. They had taken blood from me and him to confirm that was definitely what he’d died of and i had come back positive. GBS was still something I hardly knew about so over the next few days I logged onto the website and read about GBS and the 4 risk factors associated with the condition. I even met with the ladies at the charity as it happens to be local to me. They were very helpful to me.

I realised id had 3 out of 4 risk factors present as well as having GBS ? written in my notes. I’m no doctor but one would think that if they weren’t sure if I had GBS because of the confusion in my notes surely a precautionary IVAB should have been given!?

I had to have a funeral for my baby boy which was a heart wrenchingly beautiful ceremony. Everyone just sobbed all the way through. It was hard not to with the sight of a tiny blue silk coffin. He was to be cremated, the ashes made into a necklace that I wear around my neck at all times. We let balloons off afterwards for Blake. A special huge Tatty Teddy one from Mummy.

About 2 weeks after the tragic day I was invited to the hospital to meet with the senior staff who would answer any questions I had surrounding Blake’s death. My Mum had to go home now so I went along with my aunt who to their surprise, took minutes of the meeting. Although they weren’t admitting responsibility at this point, the over all outcome of the meeting was that things should have been done differently. At this point I decided to take legal action and got myself a good solicitor on board.

In January 2010, the hospital where Blake was born admitted liability, that if they’d done things differently the chances are he would still be here now. Some might call this justice and I guess it is in a way but it’s hard to think like that when my beautiful, first born sons death could so easily have been prevented. The hospital had failed to acknowledge the risk factors I was displaying during my labour. They should have put me on intravenous antibiotics because I was showing these risk factors as recommended in the RCOG guidelines.

I should never have been sent home when I went in on New Years Eve, I should have been put on IVABs then as I was displaying 2/4 risk factors at that point which would later become ¾ and still not be recognized. The second team of midwives realized I needed to come back but still didn’t put me on IVAB. It was also admitted that the SCBU nurse was new to her job and has since received further training. Its one thing that the 3 teams of midwives who delivered Blake failed to pick up on my risk factors and the confusing documentation implying I could be a carrier of GBS, but for the SCBU midwives to not pick up on the after labour risk factors of GBS too.

Grunting and not feeding are just 2 of the after factors of GBS as the baby deteriorates. I feel that if I hadn’t pointed out to the staff ‘Why is my baby making that noise, why isn’t he feeding, what’s wrong with him.’ They wouldn’t have called the pediatrician in for even longer. But it was too late anyway, Blakey was already too sick. He didn’t stand a chance.

My life will never be the same. This New Year was a very sad time for myself, my family and friends. New Years Eves are meant to be happy times of celebration and joy but for me it will never be the same again. A little boy who was loved so much is missing. Stolen by a ‘secret’ baby killer no one knows about.

Tania Holmes, Mother of Blake Michael Holmes 01/01/09 – 03/01/09

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