Monday, July 16, 2007

And when professionals get it wrong..........

Labour ward, The University Hospital of Northern Norway, Tromsø. July 2003.

Sofie rises, once again, takes the few steps from her bed to the bathroom. The midwives keep telling her she needs to pee. She still hasn't. She's clean, washed, washed out, wearing a light gray, long sleeved t-shirt of mine. Pale.

I can't get too close to her. My smell still makes her want to puke, but it's been over six hours since Caitlin was born.

Annette changed the sheets a while ago. Caitlin sleeps in the cot, stainless and plastic, at the end of the bed. Marie Jeanne in a corner, reading, a new grandmother. Annette sorts equipment, preparing for the next birth.

Sofie's steps are small, slow.

I look away, check Caitlin.

I turn to Sofie. She stands in front of the toilet, starts shaking. Last time she shook a little, then sat down. I thought it tiredness. Now her legs keep shaking, she doesn't move.


No response.


It's maybe four steps to her. Somehow I'm there already. I call again. Nothing. Shakes spread to her arms. She doesn't hear me. This is it.

I grab her, turn her, hold her from behind. My arms under her shoulders, hold her tight.

[blog advisory note here - occasional rude words in the next section]

As I do, she goes rigid. Wooden. Inanimate.

I'm dragging her out of the bathroom, towards the door. Enclosed space - got to get out before the next phase.

Somehow I dodge the sink. Her arms and shoulders are through the door when I feel it coming. Thrashing – can I hold her? Can't risk it. Can't drop her. I do, she's dead.

I lie her down. Weird, wood-person lowering. Gently, gently. Hold her head. Don't let it hit the floor. My hand's under the back of her head, I slide it out along the floor. She's down. The top of her body's in the delivery room, legs still in the bathroom.

Annette bolts over. “HIT THE RED BUTTON. BY THE BED”, she screams at Marie Jeanne. Marie Jeanne, eyes wide, runs, looks, presses. The alarm screams.

Sofie's arms and legs are everywhere, flailing. Annette grabs a syringe - Valium - slams it into her arm.

I'm standing over Sofie's hips, looking down. Her eyes are rolled back in her head, the whites showing. Only they're light green. Her head tips over to the left and froth, the same light green, bubbles out. Her hands, feet whack the floor, again, again. Again.

Anger. Erupting, enveloping.

Still standing over her, I start to scream, “How the fuck could you let this happen”, but I only get as far as you, and stop, look down at Sofie.

You don't have the luxury of losing control. These fuckwits might yet kill her. Force it down. Control.


The Valium kicks in, her thrashing easing. People arrive.

They're taking too long. Recovery position. That goop in her mouth – she's gonna choke. Or bite through her tongue. No-one's doing anything. Too long. Time to act.

I hear steps, look back at the door. Someone - the head midwife ? arrives. Short, fat, with the hairstyle favoured by Norwegian matrons - not much on the sides, bouffant on top - she stands at the doorway to the room, mouth opening and closing, opening and closing. Doing nothing. Annette defers to her. Nothing happens. Nothing.

Sofie lies there.

Seconds. Eternity.

Go. Act.

I shout at them, “Get her onto the bed. Grab her arms, I'll get her legs. ”.

They move, obedient. We settle her on the bed. She's stopped thrashing.
More staff arrive. A team from intensive care unit move in. Purposeful.

I step back.

Someone asks about head injuries.

“No the husband got her.”, Annette answers.

Marie Jeanne pipes up, “What's going on?”.

“What I've been fucking worried about for the past month!”, I yell at her.

Ellen, finally on the scene, yells back, “Well, so have we!”.

I glare at her, contain myself. Breathe.

Doctors do things. A drip is attached. Busyness.

Sofie is wheeled off, to the intensive care unit. I can't go, must wait until she's been stabilized. A young doctor walks up to me.

“We've given her something to prevent any more seizures........”, she starts.
I interrupt. “Magnesium sulphate.”.


She goes to say something else, looks into my eyes. Decides better, walks off.

Everyone leaves. Sofie has gone, the gaggle of ICU specialists pushing her bed to somewhere I can't go. Ellen, the doctor, walks over, shaken.

“Its terrible. The worst should be over now. But if things get worse...........”, she shakes her head, “Well, we don't want to think about that.”.

I just glare at her. I can't speak. Stay quiet. Don't do anything that might stop you being with Sofie. Soon as possible.

Ellen can't hold my gaze, turns away, walks out. Annette touches my arm, points to the door. She pushes Caitlin's cot, takes us out, along a corridor, into another room.

Caitlin sleeps.

The new room is bigger. Annette turns, grabs me, wraps her arms around me, saying ,“That was a good thing you did.”.

We both cry. I stop, find a jug, drink water. Metabolism. Adrenaline rush. You're going to need water. Drink.

After a while, Caitlin wakes, cries. She's fed a few times already, looks to nuzzle Sofie's breast. But Sofie is gone. I pick her up, she cries.

I walk around the room, holding her, singing.

Somehow Caitlin is fed.

All I recall is walking circuits of the room with Caitlin in my arms. Singing. Thirst. Circuits.

Waiting for news of Sofie.

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