By Alyce Collins
THIS FIRST time mum developed SEPSIS after having a c-section and spent the night cradling her son in her arms, fearing it would be the last time she held him as she believed she was DYING, before being put under critical care.
English teacher, Charlotte Parkins (31) from Manchester, UK, was 38 weeks pregnant when she welcomed her son Freddie, with husband Michael (31), via c-section on January 17, 2019.
Freddie was born on Thursday evening, weighing 6lb 10oz, but throughout the Friday, Charlotte grew increasingly unwell. Charlotte was experiencing pain which became worse as the hours passed by and she was soon crawling to get to the toilet.
By six pm, Charlotte was shaking, and her temperature was rising, but the doctor said that she wasn’t poorly enough to be classed as critical and in need of more care. Charlotte felt helpless and as though no one believed her.
Michael had to leave Charlotte’s bedside in the evening, leaving her alone to care for Freddie despite pleading with midwives to allow him to stay. Charlotte spent the Friday night clutching onto her newborn son, convinced she was dying, and it would be the last time she held him.
Charlotte was burning up but every now and then she had a rush of cold go through her body. By the early hours of Saturday morning, it became clear that Charlotte was getting worse, so nurses ran blood tests and checked her temperature, which was 39 degrees Celsius.
Nurses transferred Charlotte to a new room under critical care and put her on a drip as they realised she was septic. Charlotte’s heart rate was over 130 beats per minute as her body tried to fight off the infection. Nurses provided Charlotte with IVs, antibiotics and catheters as she was kept in the critical care room for seven days.
It is still unclear how Charlotte developed sepsis, but doctors believe it could have been tonsillitis or a suspected urinary tract infection. Charlotte hopes to raise awareness for postnatal sepsis, which many mothers wouldn’t ever think is a possibility.
“In January, my baby boy was born by c-section, but less than 24 hours later, I developed sepsis,” said Charlotte.
“I remember that Friday vividly. I hadn’t slept through the night, as anyone who’s been on a postnatal ward will understand. By seven am, I asked them to take the catheter out and had a shower as I didn’t feel too bad at that point.
“As the day progressed, I knew something wasn’t right. I was crawling to go to the toilet and the pain was unbearable. By six in the evening, I was on the bed uncontrollably shaking.
“Every time I buzzed the midwives and asked for pain relief, I was kept waiting for hours because they were short staffed. It was clear that my temperature was high and rising. The doctor was called but she said I wasn’t poorly enough because my stats weren’t critical. She informed me there was nothing she could do until I was worse.
“By midnight, my husband was made to go home, despite me being visibly unwell and begging the midwives for help. My husband felt helpless and he didn’t want to leave me because he could see that I was poorly.
“There was no way I could care for my son properly, yet I was just expected to. I remember trying to make my way to the toilet, in agony, and not knowing what to do with the baby.
“Normally I would be begging to go home as soon as I could, but instead I told my husband I was frightened to go home because of how poorly I felt.
“I remember that night like it was yesterday. I was burning up, but every few minutes a rush of cold would take over my body. My phone wasn’t near me and I couldn’t get to the emergency buzzer. I ended up sat on the chair in my bay, holding my son, convinced I was dying. I just tried to carry on as best I could for Freddie. I had to get better for him.
“Eventually, after three hours, my blood was taken, and my temperature checked, which was over 38 degrees Celsius. I was given a drip almost immediately. They took Freddie off me and put him in the cot. I remember him crying and crying but I couldn’t hold him.
“I was taken to a new ward and put under critical care with a catheter and a drip. I was so ill that my body was shaking because the fever was taking over. They said I needed one on one care, and the midwife’s handover said I was a septic woman. Sepsis was something I had heard of but wasn’t aware of what it could do.”
Charlotte remained in the labour ward under critical care for seven days, but returning home wasn’t as she had once imagined it. Charlotte kept having to check her temperature and she used a catheter for seven days after leaving hospital.
Although the experience still causes Charlotte mental and physical pain to this day, she shared her journey on Instagram, @realityofafirsttimemum, to take the stigma out of imperfect motherhood and to raise awareness for postnatal sepsis.
“Freddie was kept with me while I was in my own room under critical care and I had my own high dependency nurses. I received IVs, Oramorph, antibiotics and catheters,” said Charlotte.
“I had some amazing care during my time in hospital after having Freddie. Some of the midwives work tirelessly and offer such incredible care. However, it’s clear how understaffed they are.
“At first, they suspected sepsis could have been caused by tonsillitis, but then they considered a UTI. They don’t know for sure though. While I was there, I remember being desperate to go home. The constant doctor’s visits meanwhile trying to care for my son was very difficult.
“When I was able to go home, I had a catheter in for seven days. The feeling of coming home wasn’t the perfect image I’d hoped for as I was so poorly.
“I was becoming very unwell with it all. The health visitor said it was like the spark had gone from my eyes. I needed a release. I’m very much not over what happened to me and I never want another woman to go through this.
“I want to raise awareness for postnatal sepsis because you never go into having a baby and think it could even be possible. I want to normalise the conversation around the difficulties of motherhood and of being a first-time mum. I disagree with the false images that are portrayed on social media.”
To see more, visit www.instagram.com/realityofafirsttimemum