Battling baby from Pontnewynydd, Pontypool wins fight for survival after being born no bigger than an adult hand
ESME Poulsom is a baby who refused to give up on life – just as her parents refused to give up on her.
After mum Kirsty Bassett’s waters broke last November at just 19 weeks pregnant, Esme was given no prospect of survival by one Gwent hospital.
Before she was even born Miss Bassett, 24, and Esme’s dad Gareth Poulsom, 27, were planning her funeral. What followed is a testament to her instinct for survival, and their dedication.
And their experiences have prompted the couple to prepare a formal complaint to Aneurin Bevan Health Board over the handling of Esme’s case.
Miss Bassett and Mr Poulsom, from Pontnewynydd, Pontypool, who have another daughter, two-year-old Ava, allege that Miss Bassett was told at Nevill Hall Hospital, Abergavenny – two weeks after her waters broke, but with her pregnancy ongoing – that if she reached 23 weeks she would be offered a steroid to try to minimise contractions and help toward viability (24 weeks).
“I went into labour at 19 weeks. They thought I would miscarry, and we were just waiting,” said Miss Bassett.
“Four days later my waters broke. I was told I would deliver within 48 hours but I didn’t, my labour calmed and they weren’t quite sure what would happen.
“I was told the baby had no chance of survival without waters, and wouldn’t develop normally. They felt the best option would be a termination, but it was our choice. I just couldn’t do that. She’d fought so hard. We decided to let nature take its course.”
Two weeks later, still having periodic contractions, Miss Bassett was discharged and put herself on bed rest.
“I was told at Nevill Hall that if I got to 23 weeks I could have steroids to stop the contractions and help viability,” she said.
“I reached 23 weeks but was then told they wouldn’t give me steroids because they felt I would miscarry.
“It felt like they had given up. I knew of someone in a similar situation at the Royal Gwent who had been given steroids.
“Gareth contacted the Royal Gwent and a doctor said they would take over my care if I could get transferred.
“Nevill Hall said they wouldn’t transfer me because I was in active labour.”
Finally, it was agreed that if the baby’s head was not engaged, the transfer could go ahead, and following a check Miss Bassett was bound for the Royal Gwent.
“Within 20 minutes of getting there, I had a steroid injection,” she said. “Looking back, I can’t believe two hospitals in the same area could have such a different approach.”
A week later, Miss Bassett developed a sepsis (blood poisoning) and had to have a caesarian section.
“They didn’t think Esme would survive because she’d had no waters for five weeks. There was a one per cent chance,” she said.
“They thought they would give her to us and she would pass away. But she was born crying. They couldn’t believe it.”
Born last December 18 (original due date, April 7), weighing just 1lb 60z, Esme went straight to neo-natal intensive care. At one stage her weight dipped to 1lb 3oz.
She was so fragile and her mum so ill that for two agonising days, Miss Bassett could not see her.
“Gareth brought me pictures. She was tiny. It was touch and go and we were warned that sometimes there are two weeks or so when things seem to go well, but then they can go downhill. But she didn’t.
“Instead Esme kept improving, and after eight weeks was transferred to the special care baby unit at Nevill Hall, where the drama had begun - and where another was about to begin.
Mum’s concern at daughter’s feeding
WHEN Esme began bottle feeding while at Nevill Hall, Miss Bassett felt something was wrong.
“They assured me any problems were because she had been born so early. I thought she was aspirating (taking milk into her lungs),” said Miss Barrett.
Late in March after 100 days in hospital Esme came home, but continued to choke and cough while feeding. “She was getting worse. One day, going to Nevill Hall, she stopped breathing in the car. I had to resuscitate her,” said Miss Barrett.
“They told us it was bronchiolitis, that she’d caught a bug. She seemed to pick up on antibiotics. I said I was concerned again about aspiration, they said again it was a bug.”
Shortly afterward, Esme again stopped breathing, and her dad resuscitated her. Miss Barrett again repeated her concerns about her taking milk into her lungs, but says she was again told the baby had an infection.
But Esme’s condition worsened and she was transferred to the University Hospital of Wales (UHW, in Cardiff). “One of her lungs had collapsed. She was very poorly, and they prepared us for the worst,” said Miss Bassett.
Once more Esme defied the odds, and following transfer back to Nevill Hall, went home again. “A couple of weeks later we had a phone call from UHW asking how she was,” said Miss Bassett.
“We went down there and they were quite shocked at the state of her lung. It was still partly collapsed. They asked if I had any concerns and I said I thought she was aspirating. They tested her and stopped the bottle feeding straightaway.”
Esme was admitted and attempts were made to reinflate her lung.
That has been only partially successful while, nine weeks later, problems remain with her swallow that, if unresolved, may require a feeding tube to be fitted into her stomach. “We don’t know if her lung will fully reflate,” said Miss Bassett.
“If my concerns had been listened to at the beginning, this could have been avoided.”
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