For my fifth act of kindness, I am spreading awareness of Group B Strep. This is something that is very important to me as when my youngest nephew Theo was 13 days old, he showed his signs of Group B Strep – thankfully because my sister and her husband new the signs, they were able to act quick. Unfortunately not everyone is so lucky.
This blog post gives you;
-An overview of the information you need to know about Group B Strep
-Helplines and help websites
-An account from someone who went through their baby having Group B Strep
-Downloads and information of how you can spread awareness
AN ACCOUNT FROM A MOTHER
I’d heard about the Group Strep B test from a friend at NCT. It was never mentioned at any antenatal class or at my midwife/consultant appointments. I ordered a test from the GBSS.org website and sent the swabs back. I received a text and a letter to say that I was positive. They also send a copy of the result if positive to your midwife/Dr’s but I also flagged in an appointment at hospital and they put stickers on my records! If it is taken so seriously once positive, how is it not tested for routinely?
I was given intravenous antibiotics during labour, but I had a relatively quick labour for a firstborn. Once Theo was born we were checked and kept in for observation overnight on the ward at Warrington General Hospital. Everything was fine and so we were discharged the next day.
It was when he was 13 days old that my husband noticed that our little boy was hot to touch and breathing faster than usual. It was a really strange chain of events that made us do what we did next. I had set an alarm to wake him for a feed (although I had been thinking about stopping this as he’d been like clockwork up until then). He hadn’t woken naturally for his feed around 4am, and I also woke my husband up (which I hadn’t been doing as he was due to go back to work the next day!) and it was him that recognised his heat. I don’t think I would have been able to detect this as I was breastfeeding and my hormones were still all over the place.
When my husband said that he was hot, combined with the fast breathing, we did what any new parent would do…went on Google to find out how fast a baby was ‘supposed’ to breathe! We wondered if the room was too warm and I meanwhile tried to feed him which he did not want to do and was very out of character for him. Theo then started to cry, all the while my husband getting increasingly worried regarding the breathing etc. I took his temperature and it was 37 degrees but I had taken it with an ear thermometer (later realising that underarm would be better) and then all of a sudden it seemed as if Theo just didn’t have the energy to cry and it turned into a whimper. I’d been trying skin-to-skin and kept trying to feed and we called the Dr’s as soon as it was open. They said to get down to them straightaway and we would get an emergency appointment. Even though later, in hospital, we’d been praised for catching the signs early, this is when we felt like we should’ve maybe acted faster than we did already.
We got to the doctors and as he was concerned for the same reasons as us, he referred us to A&E paediatrics which we were sent to straight away. As at every step of the way I could tell the professionals that I had Group B Strep in labour, it was acted on immediately.
Theo was weighed, given antibiotics straightaway and was admitted to be treated for Sepsis, for at least a week. We eventually got him to nurse but it had been hours since his last decent feed at 1am in the morning. We stayed in the children’s ward and we were looked after so well by everyone there. Theo had 2 lumbar punctures, multiple cannulas (as on a little wriggly baby they obviously kept coming out no matter how well we bandaged or put a sock on his hand!) and IV fluids until the doctors and consultants were happy with his feeding again. Theo’s CRP (C – reactive protein) count, which should be a total of 2 in a newborn, was registering at 95. It later rose to 101 which means we caught the first infection marker on the way up, an indication that we had caught it early.
We were told that we may have to stay in longer (21 days – which would’ve been longer than he had lived outside of the hospital!) but his fever eventually left and his breathing rate took a bit longer to decrease. He was monitored every hour for heart rate, temperature and to check on IV fluids. Theo was tested for the meningococcal virus, amongst others, and nothing grew in the cultures which was great news. It was very hard for us both being in the hospital. I was trying to recover from the birth and being cooped up in a room for that long was hard, especially because when I left my house in a rush to the Dr’s emergency appointment, I didn’t realise that I wasn’t going home. I sent Ali, my husband, home with a list of thing for us both and that was it, I was living in the hospital.
Eventually the consultants said they would be happy to let Theo go home but he would need a course of antibiotics at home 3 times a day. It was funny as when I’d given birth to Theo and was in the ward, I was itching to get home. This time I was that parent who says ‘I can stay another night if you’d like to monitor longer!’. When we left the hospital, my sister who had come to visit told me to breathe in the fresh air and it all hit me like a ton of bricks. I hadn’t been out of that room for days! We were going home, with our baby and we were incredibly lucky. It was hard to come back to the house and go back in the same room it all started in. I later attended a first aid course and the course leader explained how lucky we had been and told us the Sepsis statistics. It took all my might not to cry in front of that roomful of people.
My long term wish is that this test is made a routine test. In the meantime while we’re arguing about if it should be routine or not, or how many doses of antibiotics might be un-necessarily administered, lets focus on what we do know – this test could save a life. It needs to be discussed in midwife appointments, at the very first ones if possible and then reminded again at 35-37 weeks when it is the prime window to do the test. It needs to be talked about at NCT and antenatal classes across the board.
I know that being featured on TV (This Morning! Etc) helps and social media sharing is all creating awareness, but it needs to be included in the core pregnancy information.
My son is now 7 months old and I try my very best to sign petitions and share on social media for awareness! Lastly, I’d like to thank the nurses, doctors and consultants that work on the Childrens Ward B11 at Warrington General. We owe you everything.
JULY IS GROUP B STREP AWARENESS MONTH!
Go to the Group B Strep Support website and find out how to get involved, and order some free leaflets and stickets http://gbss.org.uk/product-category/free-leaflets/
You can download any of the graphics below and share them on websites, social medias or print them out as hand outs. Click on the link – right click and save as a PDF or scroll up and save the long graphic as a JPEG.
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