"We will do everything in our power to make sure that what happened to you,
does not happen to anyone else."
Professor Sir Cyril Chantler,
Deputy Head of the NHS Maternity Services Review
Yesterday, I drove to Manchester to participate in the NHS Maternity Services Review. The session was facilitated by Bliss and Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity. Mothers who experienced either the death or serious illness of their babies before, during or soon after birth were invited to participate.
It was a highly emotional day and many tears were shed as the women shared their harrowing stories, pain, trauma and memories of an experience that is widely believed to be beautiful but for far, far too many women ends up being quite the opposite.
I went to share my story of the complications around Adam's birth including a pelvic split paralysing me from the waist down and Adam's life-threatening infection with Group b Strep Meningitis. Even though I have shared his story many times, and always been quite open with the pain and grief of this experience, doing so again, still reduces me to tears.
It would, perhaps, be easier to be private with his story, to file it away and focus on the beautiful boy who, thankfully and miraculously, survived. But Group b Strep is preventable, it doesn't have to keep happening. It can be stopped - if the NHS choose to start making women aware of the dangers of the infection and testing for the bacteria.
So if, by sharing my story and Adam's story, I can make even a small contribution to the push for change in the NHS, then it is worth every single one of the 200 miles and every single tear it takes for me to tell it, no matter how many times I have to do so.
The good news is that, while the women's stories were many and varied, I was not the only one who shared an experience of GBS. One woman came to the bereavement session because she had paid the ultimate price for not knowing she carried the bacteria. Professor Sir Cyril Chantler made it clear that he very much wants the current situation on GBS testing to change and that he will be strongly encouraging the team to make recommendations in the final report in this area.
As he, and Baroness Julia Cumberlege left the meeting, Cyril thanked all of the women for their courage in participating and said those very moving words, "We will do everything in our power to make sure that what happened to you, does not happen to anyone else." He sounded quite choked up.
I hope and pray that he succeeds.
In the meantime, please would you take a moment to participate in pressing for change?
You can complete the online form to share your ideas on what needs to change here: https://www.engage.england.nhs.uk/…/nhs-matern…/consult_view
You can also add your name to over 200,000 people who have signed Fiona Paddon's petition on change.org here: https://www.change.org/p/nhs-provide-tests-for-group-b-strep-to-prevent-any-more-avoidable-deaths-of-newborn-babies
You could also write to your MP and ask them to support GBS testing on the NHS.