Handle with care
October 6, 2007
Sydney Morning Herald
Kate Benson and Bellinda Kontominas.
Karina Jensen was halfway through delivering her dead baby at Sutherland hospital when a midwife handed her funeral brochures, suggesting she read them between contractions because "we have other people with live babies that are our priority".
After holding her daughter, Amber, for less than two hours, Jensen said farewell on advice from a midwife who wanted her "cooled at the morgue because it's better for the post-mortem" - only to find her dead baby then spent 10 hours alone and uncovered in a corridor of the busy maternity unit.
"It was a horrifying experience," she says. "Amber was right outside my room all night and I didn't know it. My husband, Jack, found her. She had been born at 9pm and he had left to go home about midnight. He saw her in a crib in the hallway and thought she'd be taken to the morgue soon. But the next morning when he came back she was still there in the corridor, with mothers walking past."
Jensen says she spent all night listening to other women in labour and the piercing cries of newborns, before discharging herself the next morning.
"It's such a small thing, but being in the maternity ward that night made a painful process that much more painful. It rubbed salt in my wounds."
A day later Jack Jensen received a phone call from a staff member at the hospital asking him to bring Amber back for a hearing check as they had "rushed off" before it could be done. Stunned, he replied: "Our daughter is in your morgue. If you find out that she can hear anything, you give us a call and we'll come get her."
But their agonising experience does not ring true for all parents.
Fiona van der Plaat's first child, Nicholas, died hours after birth at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 1998 and, even though she spent five days on the postnatal ward with mothers and newborns, apologetic staff gave her a room of her own as far from the sound of crying babies as possible.
Van der Plaat and her husband, Paul, were allowed to hold Nicholas for as long as they needed after his death. They were given photos of them as a family, a lock of his fair hair and prints of his tiny hands and feet. For days afterwards, midwives would bring Nicholas back from the morgue so relatives could meet him and find closure.
"He had had a post-mortem but they had dressed him in a knitted cap and a blanket so we couldn't tell and they were very encouraging that we should all hold him," van der Plaat says. "It was an extremely painful experience but we couldn't have been treated any better."
For Michael Grosvenor, those emotionally charged weeks after the stillbirth of his daughter, Amelia, left him with little time to mourn. Funeral arrangements and phone calls had to be made to inform family and friends of the couple's loss, but he says he and his wife, Suzanne, were treated with great sensitivity at Calvary Health Care, formerly Hurstville Private Community Hospital.
"You couldn't fault them. The nursing staff went beyond the call of duty, and one even came back to see us on her day off," he says.
The Grosvenors were given all the time they needed with Amelia. Their family and close friends were allowed to visit at all hours and midwives comforted and supported them. More
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Monday, October 29, 2007
Handle with care
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Bloggers across the country encouraged to call their U.S. Senator on Wednesday, October 24, 2007 in support of The MOTHERS Act.
Postpartum Support International, the world largest non profit organization devoted to the support of perinatal mental health, has joined forces with BlogHer, the web number one guide to women bloggers and Postpartum Progress the leading blog in the U.S. on postpartum mood disorders to galvanize support for the passage of The MOTHERS Act - The Moms Opportunity to Access Help, Education, Research and Support for Postpartum Depression Act. On Wednesday, October 24th, bloggers across the country will write about taking action on this critical legislation by placing calls to their state's senators urging sponsorship and support of The MOTHERS Act.
The MOTHERS Act, sponsored by U.S. Senators Robert Menendez, (D-NJ) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) will ensure that new moms and their families are educated about PPD, screened for symptoms, and provided with essential services. It will also increase research into the causes,
diagnoses and treatments for postpartum depression.
Specifically, the MOTHERS Act will help new moms by:
Providing important education and screening on postpartum depression (PPD) that can lead to early identification and treatment. The legislation includes two grants to help health care providers educate, identify and treat PPD.
Expanding important research to improve and discover new treatments, diagnostic tools and educational materials for providers. Since the exact cause of PPD isn't known, research continues to be the key to unlocking the mystery of this condition.
Postpartum depression is a serious and disabling condition that affects up to 20 percent of new mothers - 800,000 American women each year. Yet only 15 percent of these women will receive any assessment or treatment .Untreated, consequences of maternal mood disorders range from chronic, disabling depression to death. Consequences of untreated
maternal depression on infants/children range from behavioral and learning disabilities to depression and death.
Susan Dowd Stone, president of Postpartum Support International states "The good news is that perinatal mood disorders are preventable and easily treated once detected. The MOTHERS Act legislation is key because its initiatives are preventive, educational and treatment oriented. PSI urges you to participate in this important campaign."
Lisa Stone, BlogHer Co-founder and CEO, said "The BlogHer community has chosen Global Health as the focus for our year-long blogging activism initiative, BlogHers Act. Blog Day for the MOTHERS Act is exactly the kind of project where BlogHer's community can make a
difference on legislation that will save women's lives."
Katherine Stone, author of the Posptartum Progress blog, adds "Postpartum mood disorders are a disease of motherhood -- they can affect any woman who becomes a mother, regardless of who she is. If we don't do something to better educate and treat the mothers who may suffer, we are doing a disservice to all mothers, children and families everywhere. All it takes is a phone call to let the Senate know that the women of America want the MOTHERS Act to pass."
Postpartum Support International is the world's largest nonprofit organization offering support, referrals, education, training, and resources to health care providers, women, and families coping with perinatal mood disorders. With coordinators in 49 states and 29
countries around the world, PSI is well-positioned to continue its mission of eradicating perinatal mental illness in every community worldwide. Thousands of women and concerned family members call our national warm line each year, attend our annual conference for
healthcare providers and consumers, and visit our website to find local resources and support. PSI's website www.postpartum.net warmline 1-800-944-4773.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
By Lee Bowman Scripps Howard News Service
It starts with a phone call about a small life suddenly ended, about a baby found lifeless, unable to be revived.
Almost all of the more than 4,000 sudden and unexpected infant deaths in this country each year prompt an autopsy and a detailed investigation into the circumstances.
Details vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but most of the time, the investigation begins at a hospital. Emergency medical workers usually try to resuscitate infants who aren't breathing, and rarely concede the fight before getting a baby to an emergency department.
But whether an infant is pronounced dead at a hospital, the home or some other setting, the need for police or investigators from the local coroner or medical examiner to quickly begin gathering facts inevitably intrudes on grieving families.
"The shock hit me so hard at the hospital," said April Poole of Huntsburg, Ohio, of the moments after she lost her daughter, Sommer, in 2005.
"After they pronounced her, they let me into the room to see her, but they'd left the breathing tube in her throat. It just seemed so cold to me."
Rachel Yerbich, whose son, Benjamin Allen, died suddenly in Granite Falls, Minn., last September, recalls spending much of the night holding her son in a family room of the ER.
"They unhooked him from all the machines and let me carry him in there and say goodbye, let my family gather with me to say goodbye," she said.
But other parents report not being able to hold, or even touch, their dead infant at a death scene, even at the hospital.
"There are some medical examiners who are totally against allowing contact with the infant's body before the investigation," said Dr. Deborah Kay, assistant chief medical examiner for the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner's central region in Richmond.
Kay said the Virginia medical examiner is issuing new guidelines for physicians and hospitals caring for infants and children who die suddenly and unexpectedly and whose deaths are subject to investigation.
"We wanted to have some consistency in what's being done around the state, while trying to be compassionate to the families," Kay said. More
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