Charity of the Year 2019

The Tadcaster Harriers Charity of the Year for 2019 was submitted by Sophie Overfield

Sophie’s Submission on behalf of the Special Care Baby Unit at York Hospital and the Charity “Action on Pre-Eclampsia” 

Hi Mark

Firstly, thank you for the email offering people the chance to put forward their own ideas for this year’s Tadcaster Harriers Charity. It’s great to see how much was raised for Henshaws and how incredibly well Becky and Angela did at the London Marathon. 

Naturally (as I’m sure you are aware…) myself and Will have had both an amazing and challenging year so far. Upon receiving your email (and some prompts from fellow Harriers) it feels right that I put together an email to suggest the Special Care Baby Unit at York Hospital and Action on Pre-Eclampsia as joint charities of the year.

On Wednesday the 23rd of May I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a condition that affects some pregnant women, usually during the second half of pregnancy (from around 20 weeks) or soon after their baby is delivered. Early signs of pre-eclampsia include having high blood pressure (hypertension) and protein in your urine (proteinuria).  It's unlikely that someone will notice these signs, but they should be picked up during your routine antenatal appointments. Unfortunately, in my case, they weren’t and the condition can lead to serious complications for both mother and baby if it's not monitored and treated from the earliest opportunity.

This was viewed as dangerous enough that I was admitted to hospital and told that I had to remain in hospital until my baby had arrived safely. As you can imagine, with the due date a couple of months away, this was worrying. Subsequently, my condition deteriorated and it was clear the condition was unmanageable. The pre-eclampsia developed into “hellp syndrome” which made it a life threatening situation.  The staff tried to keep me calm (to keep my blood pressure down) but I was able to sense that everything wasn’t going to be as straight forward as the birth plan suggested. Eventually, the condition started to affect my liver and my body started rejecting the placenta. They had administered a course of steroids to help stimulate the growth and strength of essential organs such as lungs, which made myself and Will realise it was likely she was going to be here sooner than we thought. 

Her due date was the 10th of July, but on the evening of Sunday 27th May I was rushed in for an emergency C-Section. It was probably the most stressful moment of my life (but I remember fondly in all the chaos, a panicked, nervous Will dressed in scrubs, turn to one of the surgeons and in his Yorkshire accent ask bluntly “so, you been busy”?). Funnily enough, they had been. 9 C-sections that day. I remember the many staff who were all in the room for that moment, different expertise and professionals who ensure people, babies have the safest route into the world, whatever the circumstances. We were both terrified, but the nurses, surgeons, midwifes do this day in and day out. Tegan arrived just 3lb 4oz but healthy. 

The following 3 weeks, would consist of 24 hours on the Special Care Baby Unit at York Hospital. Obviously, the above states the obvious, regarding the incredible staff of the NHS doing what we all know they do, from the labour ward to the operating theatre. But for the next three weeks the Special Care unit became our home away from home, I was left truly humbled and in awe of the staff. It was a weird time, we knew we were parents but for moments we had to ask to hold our baby, there were wires, beeping machines, tubes, incubators and other babies and parents with their own challenges. It was like a parental waiting room at times. It was mentally challenging. I myself for the first 48 hours had to be taken in a bed to see my baby. Following the birth, Will wanted to save his paternity for when we were both home, so he was driving every day after work until late. It was a challenging time, people rightly think about the babies, but the parents struggle and need support.

It’s important to state that, as we quickly realised, we had it pretty easy relative to the other babies. The unit has a kitchen, a lounge, two bedrooms, private rooms and more so parents who travel further afield can have comforts to make their time on the unit as comfortable as possible. We spoke to one lady who had been every day for 9 weeks. They suggested me and Will stay in one of the bedsits so we could spend a couple of nights on our own getting used to been with Tegan, yet knowing support was only down the corridor if / when we needed it. 

The attentive and personal approach is so valuable. Yet, to offer the service and support, as well as vital care for babies, they are dependent on support through their charity. Fortunately, Tegan developed well, and it was pretty routine. But we spent a lot of time speaking to other parents, the nurses and many have a much more difficult situation. The special care baby unit’s staff and facilities are extraordinary. It was humbling to see how the staff approach their work, adore what they do and expect little in return but healthy babies having the best start in life. We received all the support we could have ever needed, mentally and practically as parents and in Tegan building strength, been healthy and ready to enter the world. Despite how busy the unit can be, we had privacy when we needed it, the attentive staff would ensure someone was on the end of the phone (even if I called at 2 in the morning and needed an update to put my mind at rest). They deal with some truly stressful situations, yet can put a positive smile on when they know you need it.

For a while now, we have been considering how we can say thanks. Having been through this, I’m now getting back into my running and enjoying it again. My body had been through major surgery, illness and parenthood obviously brings changes, but running has remained a big part of my life. A major ambition has been to run the London Marathon. With this in mind, I have previously contacted SCBU about running it for them. However, the unit doesn’t at this time have a London Place immediately, due to being a local charity. 

We have both already been offered donations for SCBU by parents, family, friends which we have put on hold, as we have felt something more organised in terms of fundraising may be arranged in the future, which these sums can be welcomed into. I would be proud to do this under the Harriers banner, should it be the chosen charity. Of course, London has remained a dream of mine for many years. I have also been surprised how little is known about Pre-Eclampsia, how many people it affects and how little publicity it receives, despite the potentially catastrophic consequences of late / no diagnoses. With this in mind, the charity Action on Pre-eclampsia have a London place and again, I would be proud to run for them. Should this be the case, we would be happy to raise London Marathon Sponsorship for them under the Harriers banner, and do other fundraising for SCBU.

As you can imagine, we had a lot of tears leaving SCBU, happy and sad having had a home away from home which was so much time with the staff and that environment and also leaving knowing an extraordinary chapter of our lives had been and gone. As I write this, our baby is asleep in front of us, had it not been for the staff, their professionalism and making the right calls at the right time, it could have been very different. So, they deserve every penny. 

Something to think about, and once again I’m sure you will receive a number of fantastic charities who are all worthy of consideration and I will be happy to support whoever is chosen over the next year. 

Kind Regards and best wishes 

Sophie :)

More Information about the Special Care Baby Unit at York Hospital

York_Special_Care_Baby_Unit_Support_Group_2018

More Information about Action on Pre-Eclampsia

https://action-on-pre-eclampsia.org.uk/