Thank You

Anyone who has been following my blog will know that I have had a few things to say about maternity care.  And anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I also have a few things to say about breastfeeding support and health visiting.  And a few other things too….  Basically, if I see an area of the NHS that I feel needs improvement I am not afraid to say so.

But the NHS has also been incredible for my family.  Amazing, inspiring, awesome…… life saving.  So in the middle of gentle but firm proddings to encourage some areas of our health service to make themselves better, I would like to take a moment to say


Thank you for providing my family with a wonderful health visitor, Anna Embleton of the Sale Moor team, and for our outstanding GP practice.  These two services alone have done a huge amount for me, for my husband and for our children.  Advice, compassion, the ability to listen and never appear as busy as they actually are.  Warm welcomes, home visits, concern and genuine care.

Thank you to University Hospital South Manchester for the gentle and understanding care your staff provided to me during my miscarriage and separate minor operation in 2012.  Compassion once again, an immediate understanding of the emotional care I would need, in addition to the first class medical care.  Humour, warmth and respectful practice.

My immediate and extended family had benefited from the NHS for many years, and then in 2013 we had our second baby and he has a congenital heart defect, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.  Now we saw the full extent of the NHS at its most fantastic.  Once again,

thank you note

For a start, the cardiac surgeons at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital have saved David’s life.  Twice.  Once when he was 5 days old when Prem Venugopal performed the Norwood Procedure on a heart about the size of a walnut.  And again when he was 5 months old when Ram Dhannapuneni did the “Glenn” or Cavo-Pulmonary Connection.  This is the two men that we can never thank enough:

Ram Dhannapuneni, Prem Venugopal and Cardiac Liaison Nurse Gill McBurney

Ram Dhannapuneni, Prem Venugopal and Cardiac Liaison Nurse Gill McBurney

So many people at Alder Hey provided unrivalled care to our little boy.  The nurses on K2, the cardiac ward, the team on ICU, David’s cardiologist Dr Caroline Jones, the cardiac liaison nurses, the healthcare assistants, the doctors, the people whose job titles I have never got to grips with but who performed scans, X-rays, echos…..  All free at the point of delivery and all with compassion and a smile.

Not forgetting either the people who brought David into the world, before he was transferred to Alder Hey.  He was born at St Mary’s Hospital and the person I always mention first is FMU midwife Della, because the care and quite frankly love she provided us with for those days of diagnosis and birth was above and beyond.  We took David back to see her when he was discharged from Alder Hey, and again the day before his 1st birthday.  We will never forget her – she made a difficult experience bearable.

David and me with midwife Della the day before David's 1st birthday

David and me with midwife Della the day before David’s 1st birthday

A big thank you also to Dr Stamatios Capadopoulos, anaesthetist Andrew Heck, Patience, Sarah H, Sarah B, Helen P and all of the team who delivered my boy safely into this world.

The thing that really stands out for me about our journey with David as far as the NHS is concerned, is that we have never been alone.  Having a child with a serious, incurable, heart condition is a frightening business.  But not once have we been abandoned to cope on our own.  We are welcome to call K2 any time, day or night.  I can email David’s cardiologist or the CLNs with all manner of queries and frets and they always respond.  We have open access to the Starlight Ward at University Hospital South Manchester, courtesy of David’s paediatrician Dr Vemuri.  So in an emergency, or seeming emergency, we do not have to wait in A&E – we are straight onto the children’s ward.  I have used this facility three times – and every time it has transpired that David has nothing more than, well, basically a cold.  Not once has any member of staff at UHSM suggested that I am neurotic, time wasting, an inconvenience – they have always been kind, reassuring and prompt in their care.

UHSM also provided David with the incredibly costly Synagis injections – palivizumab to help him to combat bronchial issues during the first winter of his life.  These injections cost a fortune in themselves.  For these alone we would have had to pay through the nose in another country.  Add to that the flu vaccinations, that have been provided not only to David but to his brother, to me and to my husband, so that the whole family is protected because our little lad is so vulnerable.

During the first 5 months of David’s life he had to be weighed twice a week and have his oxygen saturations (Sats) checked twice a week.  This brings me to my final huge


The weights were done by the health visiting team, and I think I have now met nearly all of the Sale Moor HVs as a result.  Always prompt, always lovely and unhurried, always ready to chat and see how I was coping.  The Sats were done by the Trafford Children’s Community Nursing Team (CCNT), David’s named nurse being Melissa Curley.  The two services worked together, and worked with Alder Hey, and I felt safe in the knowledge that communication between the teams was working so well.  This was all part of Alder Hey’s Home Monitoring System, which meant that David didn’t have to return to that hospital every week.  It also meant that during the vulnerable and frightening period between surgery 1 and surgery 2, I had two healthcare professionals visiting me twice a week, and that was always far more for my benefit than for David’s (his weight and Sats being satisfactory on almost every occasion).

That safety net has not disappeared now that David has had his second surgery.  The CCNT still come out to see us once a month to check his Sats – 84% at last count for those who are interested in these details – and they remain committed to his wellbeing, phoning me up to check on him if there is the last concern about his health.  I also know from experience that my health visitor remains ready to visit and support our family at a moment’s notice.  We really are very fortunate.

I know that this is not everyone’s experience of the NHS.  I know that not every family of a “heart” baby receives this level of care, let alone the families of children who are ordinarily healthy.  I am all too aware of the shortcomings and “could do betters” of the system.  But for us, from the moment David was born, we have never been alone.  And for that I can only say


5 thoughts on “Thank You

  1. Such a lovely post Helen and so many things to be thankful for. I think having a child with complex medical needs does make you so much more grateful for the NHS – we have certainly seen it at its best as a result and have a similar level of support in place to you with regular community nurse visits and open access to the children’s ward which makes a lot of difference when you have concerns. Yes, the NHS is not perfect and there are many areas where improvements need to be made and encouragement to do better in those areas is always needed, but it is good to be reminded of what works well and to say thank you for it. Thank you for sharing with #hearttoheartlinky.


  2. Jan Trainor says:

    Helen, Thank you for your post
    we can learn so much from people who use our services, and there is nothing more important to our HVs than supporting families like yours.
    I think our HVs are fantastic too!
    Jan Trainor head of Service, Trafford HVs


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