'They saved my baby': Mum's emotional thank you to Northampton General Hospital

First time mum, Charlotte Gould-Leer, 22, was told the chances of saving her extremely premature baby were 'minimal' but, despite the odds, nurses and doctors in Northampton and Coventry were able to save little Christine's life

By Megan Hillery
Thursday, 11th November 2021, 7:13 pm

Becoming a first time parent is a nerve-wracking experience.

Unexpectedly going into labour 15 weeks before your due date and being told your premature baby's chances of survival are fifty-fifty is an experience described as 'terrifying' for 22-year-old Charlotte Gould-Leer and 30-year-old George Connor from Northampton.

Charlotte's waters broke at just 22 weeks into her pregnancy and she was kept in at a hospital in Leicester for a week's observation. Just three weeks later on Thursday July 29, she began having contractions.

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Mother Charlotte Gould-Leer, 22, with father George Connor, 30 and baby Christine.

Recalling the frightening ordeal, Charlotte said: "I didn't know anything about it because I've never had a baby before. They told me to come down to [Northampton General] hospital where they assessed me and told me my cervix was closed. When I was in there, I ended up on the labour ward, three centimeters dilated.

"I was told her chances were fifty fifty whether she lives or not. I told the dad, 'you need to get here now.' My head was everywhere and they said to me your waters have gone and I need to push."

Baby Christine was born at just 25 weeks and two days old weighing one pound and 12 ounces on Friday, July 30 at 7.56pm. The normal length of pregnancy is 37 - 42 weeks gestation, so a baby born before 37 weeks is premature.

She was immediately whisked away by nurses to the Gosset Ward, which cares for newborn babies who require intensive care, and put on a ventilator. The Gosset Ward is allowed to practice intensive care for babies of 27 weeks old or above so Christine had to be transferred to University Hospital Coventry the next day.

Baby Christine was born at just 25 weeks and two days old weighing one pound and 12 ounces in July this year.

Various scans and tests showed that little Christine had a large hemorrhage on the left side of her brain with bruising on the right side. She was also diagnosed with Chronic Lung Disease and Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a potentially blinding eye disorder that saw a significant amount of discharge coming out of her eyes and caused sight loss.

Doctors discovered Christine additionally had a Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA), which is an opening between two major blood vessels leading from the heart of a baby in the womb. The opening is supposed to close shortly after birth but if it remains open, it can weaken the heart muscle and cause heart failure as well as other complications.

Charlotte said: "They said there was a very minimal chance they could help her. I got straight down to where she was in the intensive care unit because I was in Coventry hospital as well and spent every day with her as they monitored her closely."

Fortunately, Christine was able to undergo laser eye surgery in Oxford, which was a success and the PDA in her heart is currently in the process of closing. She returned to the Gosset Ward, where she was cared for by nurses for a month and a half. During that time, she was moved from an incubator to an open cot after she hit 34 weeks gestation. Her eyes and brain are still under review.

Baby Christine now weighs a healthy six pounds and 10 ounces at 103 days old. She is off the ventilator completely and is feeding from bottles too. Her due date was November 10.

Young mum, Charlotte, now wants to share her story to give hope to other expectant parents in a similar situation and to give a huge thank you to the staff at Northampton General Hospital and University Hospital in Coventry for saving her baby girl's life.

Through tears, she said: "I have been through so much and it has made me stronger. I suffer with anxiety and depression and, when I had Christine, I had all these worries going through my head: I don't know what I'm doing - is she going to make it? Is she going to be okay? If it weren't for dad and mum, I think I would have been very down in the dumps and would not have know what to do with myself. I would have gone crazy.

"This whole experience has changed me completely. I think of what she is like now compared to when she was born.

"I cannot thank the Gosset Ward and Coventry enough. Without them, my baby would not have survived, they were amazing.

"Even on the worst days, they would come in and that would be it: they look after you. They ask you if you've eaten, have you had any sleep then tell you to get yourself home and have some rest.

"Thank you so much because if it wasn't for you guys, I would not know if my baby would have lived and you helped me to learn new things day in and day out. You helped me bond with my baby. It is because of you she survived."

Staff on the Gosset Ward at Northampton General Hospital were 'delighted' when The Chronicle & Echo informed them that Charlotte wanted to publicly thank them for saving her baby's life.

Manager of Gosset Ward - NGH’s neonatal unit - Sister Michelle Hardwick, said: “All of the staff who are involved in the care of baby Christine are delighted that Charlotte has taken the time to make a public thank you to the ward.

"We would like to thank Charlotte for her kind words to us. It really helps give everyone a lift in these difficult times to know that the support we deliver is so appreciated.”

Charlotte lives on her own but she remains 'best friends' with Christine's father, George. They support each other every day and Charlotte claims that this ordeal has made them 'come out stronger than ever.'

She added: "I would like to thank her dad, George, for all the support and helping me through our hardest time ever, if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have been able to get to see my baby most days."

To find out more about the Gosset Ward at Northampton General Hospital, visit the hospital's website.