THERE were tears and cheers as the region’s youngest Coronavirus baby left Blackpool Victoria Hospital with her mum and dad.
Baby Ruby Dawson was born with COVID-19 and, after an emergency caesarean, her mum, Kathrine, who also had the virus, was sedated and on a ventilator fighting for her life. Ruby was being cared for on the hospital’s neonatal unit and, because they were both positive, dad was unable to visit either of them.
But the family’s Coronavirus nightmare finally came to an end when they walked through an NHS staff guard of honour and into their car to take Ruby home to be with her two sisters in Garstang. Ruby was one of the only babies worldwide to be born with the virus.
As she left the hospital, Kathrine, 36, told the assembled staff that she owed her life to them and that she would never be able to thank them for what they did for her and her family.
The ordeal started in March when 32-week pregnant Kathrine was taken to A&E with what she thought was a chest infection. As she had been self-isolating for three weeks she did not think she had caught COVID-19.
But after a swab it was discovered she had Coronavirus and a decision was made to deliver the baby by caesarean section to give them both the best chance. Ruby was born on April 1 weighing 4lb 12oz and was also COVID-19 positive.
Kathrine’s condition deteriorated and she had to be put into an induced coma and put onto a ventilator. Her chances of survival were 50/50 at that time.
“It was a very challenging case and we were very concerned that she might not make it,” said ITU consultant, Dr Jason Cupitt. “She was deeply sedated and we weren’t seeing much change, but then, five days later, there was a spark of light at the end of the tunnel as her oxygen levels started to improve.
“This was a particularly emotional case for everyone,” Dr Cupitt added. “Kathrine and Ruby touched everyone’s heart and she is someone I will always remember.”
Visiting restrictions meant Kathrine’s husband, Stuart could not be with her and Dr Cupitt kept him updated daily on Katherine’s condition and the neonatal department sent him a daily diary on Ruby’s progress.
Stuart said: “I owe my future to the staff at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. I thought I was going to be a widow looking after young children on my own, but they saved her life and Ruby’s life.
“I could not visit either of them because of the Coronavirus and I had 26 days of waiting, worrying and stress. Dr Jason’s updates and the daily diaries from neonatal were my lifeline.
“Without those diaries Ruby and I would have been strangers, but when I eventually saw her I felt I knew her.”
Before Kathrine was put onto the ventilator she, Stuart and their two daughters, Grace, 5 and Ava, 11 months, shared one last emotional video call.
“It was a bit like saying goodbye, it could have been the last phone call,” Stuart added. “But the staff at Blackpool Hospital changed our future, how do you thank a person who has saved your wife’s life?”
When the pair were discharged after 37 days in hospital, staff from delivery suite, the neonatal unit, A&E and the COVID ITU formed a guard of honour to see the family safely on their way home.
And the delivery staff also broke into spontaneous applause as the ITU team joined the group to say farewell to Kathrine and Ruby.
Head of Midwifery at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Nicola Parry, said: “We are just thrilled that the Dawson family have all been reunited. It has been a tricky journey for them and, as a Families Division, we have surrounded that family.
“But it has also been a tricky journey for the staff and I am immensely proud of everyone for using all of their care, compassion, professionalism and technical abilities. What we have found is this case has united the team right across the hospital and through this joint experience we have all surrounded the Dawson family giving the best treatment and care.
“Their story sets everything good about the humanity shown by staff at this Trust and we wish the Dawson family every happiness and health as they go forward in their life together, we are just delighted at this outcome.”