Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Catching Babies: Black Wednesday

Once a year in the UK, not only in Maternity Services but across the board there is a time that brings dread to the hearts of nurses, midwives and pharmacists. New Doctors week. It happens in early August. Someone, somewhere, once upon a time decided it would be a good idea to move all the junior doctors to new departments at one time and throw some new graduates in to the mix too. Just for fun. Go ahead. Google Doctor changeover day. I dare you. I warn you though, you might decide to turn to Google again and self-medicate if you ever become unwell in August.
We all know that for the first few weeks in August we will be spending time we don’t have giving the new doctors directions, teaching them routine and protocols, checking prescriptions for them and waiting for them to check with other doctors before things get done. It’s a pain in the arse for them and for us and a totally stupid way of doing things. But as with many things in the NHS it’s the way we’ve always done it and it will take a disaster before anyone is willing to change it.

All through this, the babies keep on coming. So many babies we are running out of cots for them and beds for their mothers. The powers that be have reduced our staff and our beds based on the number of patients we had last year. The problem with that is that we have already surpassed that number and the year isn’t over yet. We are all exhausted and that gives us less time for teaching the right way to do things. Whether with new doctors or with new mothers. September is on the horizon and we all know this is traditionally our busy time. Something has to give.

Into the mix comes an eighteen year old girl who is twenty-six weeks pregnant. Her waters have broken several days ago and she is showing signs of infection and that infection is most likely in her womb. There is no choice but to try and induce her labour while treating her with antibiotics before the infection worsens and possibly kills her. We all know the odds of the baby surviving the procedure and the delivery are slim. That the chances of it making it hale and healthy after that, slimmer still. She is not my patient and I am glad. I see her relatives coming and going with grief in their eyes and am glad that on this occasion it isn’t me who has to try and hold them together while they wait.

We all go about our duties and every time we pass the main desk or each other we ask. “Is it over yet?” The day shift passes and the baby is still with us. Heartbeat strong. The girl’s infection has worsened and she is spiking high fevers. The doctors are scratching their heads and throwing antibiotics at it while they wait for test results in the hopes that something will stick. Days pass and suddenly the girl turns a corner begins to get better. Against the odds and despite us doing our best to induce it, she doesn’t labour. We stop trying. The signs of infection are gone and it’s decided, let nature take its course. As I leave my final shift of August news reaches through the grapevine. The girl has gone home. She is still on antibiotics and still pregnant. We are all astonished but as we leave August its clear to us all that sometimes miracles do happen. Whatever the next weeks throw at us we just have to keep on going and we’ll get through it. Whatever will be, will be.