Article by Teddy & Me
In 2008, Sharon Ward entered ITV’s Mumpreneur competition and was a finalist on the This Morning programme. Her business idea was the design and manufacture of a range of tiny baby clothing for premature and low birth weight babies. The clothing was not only gestationally proportionate to ensure a good fit, but took into consideration the needs of a baby in neonatal care, with ease of access to accommodate monitors, leads and drips, positioning of fasteners to avoid tender areas such as the cord and of satin-soft flat seams to avoid irritation. Sharon really wanted to help parents of preemies to be able to dress their precious newborn and gain a sense of ‘normality’ in an otherwise difficult time in their lives. Little did Sharon know that two years later, she would also become a Mum to a preemie.
Here Sharon tells her story…
My problems began at a routine antenatal check up when I was 31 weeks pregnant with our second child. My legs, hands and face had begun to swell and my blood pressure was raised. A week later the symptoms had worsened and I had protein in my urine, all of which are symptoms of pre-eclampsia, so I went into hospital for observation.
At 34 weeks my consultant admitted me into hospital again. Despite having been told at 10.30am to ‘pack a bag and come straight back’, not realising the danger, I didn’t actually return for 7 hours! As it turned out being in hospital saved my life and that of my unborn baby…
During the night I started to experience pains across the top of my bump, under my ribs; I also started to vomit. Having been given pethadene I went to sleep but by the next morning my blood had started to change. A senior midwife on duty spotted the symptoms of HELLP syndrome, a complication of pre-eclampsia and called a consultant.
My husband Jon had just gone home and I’d eaten lunch when the consultant arrived and said they needed to prepare me for theatre. Jon was called back and I was transferred to a side room while they monitored the situation and waited for my lunch to digest. I actually felt well which was strange given the fact that my liver was actually destroying my white blood platelets and I was losing the ability to clot; my blood pressure was also very high.
By early evening my condition had begun to deteriorate and platelets were ordered from Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham. My blood was being monitored by the hour and the number of white blood platelets had reduced dramatically; much faster than had been expected. A senior anaesthetist arrived as did two senior consultants.
A consultant explained that the only way to stop HELLP syndrome was to deliver the baby but they needed my platelet count to be at least 80,000/mm3 – it was 53,000/mm3 and going down fast. It was explained that a general anaesthetic could cause a stroke due to my high blood pressure and a spinal block could bleed and cause paralysis. Neither option sounded great!
What I didn’t realise at the time was that HELLP syndrome can kill and I was dangerously close. My husband was all too aware how serious the situation had become and struggled to remain composed.
The platelets arrived and by the time we reached theatre my platelet count had reached 73,000/mm3, still lower than required but by then both bags of platelets had been used. A spinal block was given and Daniel arrived at 9.09pm via a c section, weighing 5lb 4oz. I saw him briefly before he was rushed to special care. I later discovered he had stopped breathing.
Initially Daniel required oxygen and one to one neonatal care. My husband went to see him and was overwhelmed by the situation. I had been taken to HDU and the reality of what had happened was just starting to sink in. Daniel was being kept warm in a hot cot and seemed to be covered in tubes.
HELLP Syndrome can cause water on the brain, so to prevent this I was unable to eat and could only drink 10ml water per hour for several days. Attached to a magnesium drip, it was 24hrs before I saw Daniel. Although groggy I was thrilled when they wheeled me to special care. He was so tiny and his chest seemed to struggle with breathing but he was perfect.
The day after his arrival Daniel came off oxygen and within a couple of days he was well enough to be cared for in the nursery, although he had problems feeding and had a gastric tube. I came home after twelve days and Daniel was allowed home a week later.
As the creator of Teddy & Me it seems somewhat ironic that I should experience the birth of a premature baby. I always felt I understood how difficult the experience of having a premature baby was but in reality I realise now that you can never truly know how it feels unless you have experienced it.
Sharon’s business is now in it’s fifth year and going from strength to strength. She continues to develop new ranges and her clothing is now used in neonatal units around the world.
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