Stafford Experience

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

My local hospital, Stafford, is again a focus of national media attention after the “appalling standards of care” were first brought to light about four years ago.

I have on many occasions received excellent treatment at Stafford hospital and I have many friends who work there and are true credits to their industry. I think it is very sad that the focus is entirely on the mistakes of a few bringing the entire hospital into disrepute.

That said, things need to be done. After my experience during my miscarriage and during the early stages of my pregnancy which resulted in Miss Rose being born I decided to move hospitals. I feared for our well being as well as feeling that the treatment I received was not appropriate, it was a negative experience in a lot of ways.

My first pregnancy was a delight. We had been married just a month and couldn’t believe how lucky we were to get pregnant so fast. We called our baby Pip and told just a few people close to us who celebrated and were excited for us.

Two days after Christmas, when I was 10 weeks pregnant, I started to bleed. I got an emergency appointment with my doctor who referred me for a scan at Stafford hospital the following day.

I was frightened, my husband was tense, and we were both pale trying not to cry. When we were called in the sonographer greeted us with “Are you excited?”

Erm. No. Terrified.

She had been holding the notes the whole time and not bothered to read them. Okay, fine, people make mistakes.

What happened next still hurts me to this day when I think about it. I was lying on the couch gripping my husbands hand and staring at a screen full of grey fuzz trying to figure out what I was seeing. She didn’t say anything until I asked what was going on, to which her cold response where she didn’t even look at me was “Well there’s obviously not a baby there, is there”

I cried. Extensively. Eventually she said it appeared the baby had stopped developing a couple of weeks earlier and was only now passing. One of the complaints against Stafford hospital was the lack of compassion and I definitely experienced it first hand. The way she spoke to me made me both feel like I was thick; it wasn’t obvious to me, I had never had the experience before and didn’t know what to look for, and like my pain didn’t matter; there was no sympathy or compassion when I was clearly breaking apart. I’m sure they deal with miscarriages regularly, a large number of pregnancies fail, but it doesn’t mean that my pain didn’t matter. My miscarriage was still significant and my loss hurt.

I went home and was advised I should pass a large clot then the bleeding should stop, then to go back two weeks later for a follow up scan which was booked for when I should have had my 12 week pregnancy scan.

I spent two weeks passing a lot of clots, bleeding constantly, flooding the bed and covering both me and my husband in blood. The pain was intense, I was on heavy pain killers and having contractions all day every day. I spent New Years Eve on the toilet crying in agony whilst my mum and husband tried to comfort me. It was a hideous time. I still get upset now.

The scan was a horrible experience. The first time we went for a scan we were seated in a lovely room, lots of posters about pregnancy, soft lighting, comfy seats and tables full of magazines. It was bright and clean and a nice place to be, even in my state of terror. The second time we went we were shown to a different room. A dark room down a long corridor, dirty, with broken bookcases stored in the corner and a pile of broken chairs. Posters all over the walls about how having sexually transmitted infections can cause miscarriages and birth defects. When we were called to the scan nobody came to get us, she stood at the end of the corridor and called my name then disappeared. We weren’t even certain we’d heard it, poked our heads out the door and nobody was there but a door was open at the end so we went there. We felt pushed aside, like we were something to be ashamed of. We didn’t deserve a nice, comfy room. Our baby had died. Bad parents.

During the scan we weren’t told much, she didn’t speak, didn’t ask how I was feeling. I’m sure it’s not her job but surely empathy and bedside manner matter. She had none. It truly was like we’d failed and didn’t deserve to be cared for. After the scan we went to speak to a nurse who told us the scan showed everything had cleared out so the bleeding should stop soon.

Apparently this was wrong. I carried on bleeding, carried on contracting. Eventually I noticed a change, a strong smell and darker blood, and got worried and went to my doctor who checked and I had an infection. She also informed me that her letter from the hospital said it hadn’t all cleared yet and if I was still bleeding I should go to my doctor. Had I been told this the infection would have been caught quickly or prevented, had I left it longer I could have got sepsis which could have lead to me getting extremely ill and problems in me conceiving again in the future. Why had they got it wrong? Had they lied? Was the person who told me this not qualified? If she wasn’t qualified what was she doing?

It was traumatic. Women suffering from a miscarriage should be treated with care, respect, compassion. You already feel like a failure and you feel intense guilt, for hospital staff to add to that is very wrong in my opinion. Also, the incorrect information I was given could have lead to me never being able to have Rose.

When we got pregnant again I was sent for a 6 week scan, unfortunately it was the same woman. Again she hadn’t read my notes. Again I was lay on the bed staring at a screen of grey fuzz. There was no baby. She was ignoring me as I began to break down and gripped my husband’s hand whilst he tried to stay strong. When I choked out the questions of what was going on? She looked at me like I was stupid and said “It’s there look” and pointed at the screen. A tiny little smudge with the faintest flicker. She went back to the monitors whilst my husband pointed it to make sure I could see it. I was then dismissed.

At my midwife appointment I said I wanted to be transferred to another hospital. I didn’t trust the care I would receive at Stafford would protect us. I didn’t trust I would be looked after kindly. I felt both emotionally and physically vulnerable and during pregnancy when you already feel vulnerable for the hospital experience to add to it is awful.

I stand by my beliefs that most at that hospital are wonderful and I am glad they are there, but when my bad experience is nothing compared to some of the reports coming out it makes me feel strongly that work needs to be done. The few that are routinely failing patients need to be dealt with. Whatever has lead to them caring so little needs to be addressed to prevent more falling into the same pattern.

Writing about this has been incredibly hard and I’ve had to take several breaks. I do not regret that pregnancy. Pip’s life was extremely short but extremely important. However brief the existence it was filled with love. Had I not lost Pip then Rose would never have existed, and Rose is my daughter, she is the one I should have, and I would not trade her for anything. I just wish the experience I had would have been different. I hope anyone else going in like I did gets a better quality of care and is comforted and spoken to gently. If empathy needs to be taught then it should be done. Stafford Hospital is filled with wonderful, caring and professional staff I have been exposed to on several occasions. People that represent my town beautifully. People who should be celebrated and appreciated. But my experience means I don’t think I’ll ever want to have a baby there. I won’t feel safe. Work needs to be done and I hope it is done soon.

You can check out all my contact info an links on http://www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also http://www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and The Boy (Jonathan McKinney) and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to http://www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

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