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'My wife had a stroke after giving birth'
One man's story about family life after a stroke, article taken from The Guardian:
'The day after the birth of their second daughter, Adam Moy did what many new fathers do.
He went home from the hospital to get the house ready for his wife and baby coming home and to have a sleep. He had just dozed off on the sofa when he got a phone call from the hospital.
“They said, ‘Your wife’s had a stroke,’” recalls Adam. “In that one moment, my whole world dropped away.”
Adam rushed back to St George’s hospital in Tooting, south London, near their family home
in Clapham. His wife, Mia Sarjeant, was already in the operating theatre having brain surgery.
He was taken aside by one of the doctors for the first of many talks. “Basically, the one where you are told that there is a high chance your wife is going to die,” says Adam.
Struggling to take it all in, it dawned on him that he had been left literally holding the baby. Leaving Mia in the neurological intensive care unit he set off on the long walk back across the hospital to the delivery ward to collect his day-old daughter. “I felt sick,” he says. “I tried to gather my thoughts and myself. I was on autopilot.”
Keen to stay close to Mia, Adam decided to stay in the maternity unit and for the next four nights stayed with baby Esther on the ward.
“Esther and I were in a room together. I would take her out of her cot and cuddle her, try and get some skin to skin as best I could,” he says. “I shared the feeding with the midwives who helped out when they weren’t too busy delivering babies.”
Each morning, Adam would get Esther up, change and feed her, put her into a cot and wheel her over to intensive care. At first the doctors wouldn’t admit the baby, in case of infection, but Adam pressed until they relented. “When I finally got in, I put the baby on top of Mia,” he says. “She was all wired up, unable to communicate, but there’s always a mother-baby connection. I felt that was hugely important.”
Each evening, Adam would sit down and write detailed notes about what had happened during the day, trying to make sense of the medical detail. “It was partly to keep my sanity,” he says. “Also, being a lawyer – we love to write everything down.”
No one knows what caused Mia’s stroke. The pregnancy had been straightforward and she had Esther at home in a birthing pool. Shortly afterwards, Mia started to lose blood and failed to deliver the placenta. She was rushed into hospital.
Mia had worked as an antenatal teacher for the National Childbirth Trust. “I think our decision to have a home birth was informed by Mia having worked in that world,” says Adam. “There was no adverse risk around us doing it. Everyone was comfortable with it.”
Adam was also aware how strongly Mia had wanted to breastfeed. He enlisted the help of a specialist midwife he had met on the delivery ward and together they organised a plan to enable that to happen, even though Mia, by now in an induced coma, was oblivious.
“I think they probably thought I was a bit crazy,” says Adam, “but I believed it was the right thing to do. It didn’t interfere with everything else that was going on. Her body was still there – it was just the brain that was injured.”
But Mia’s condition continued to deteriorate and four days after Esther’s birth, she had another operation. Adam feared his wife would die but she was still alive the next morning. The next day, the doctors told Adam to go home. “They said, ‘You have to keep the train on the tracks.’ I think they thought I might have a breakdown.”
That weekend, friends and family gathered at his house. “Everyone was sick with worry. Mia was on a knife-edge. Everything was in the balance at that point. That was the worst weekend of my life.”
Adam also realised the time had come to explain what was going on to their older daughter, Alice, who was nine. “How do you tell a child her mother may be about to die? I thought it was very important to be truthful so I sat her down and I said, ‘Look, I’m not going to lie to you, but Mummy might not make it.’
“She handled it brilliantly. She said instinctively, ‘Does she still have feelings?’ And I said ‘Yes, of course, she’s still got feelings.’
“And that was the most important thing for her because they’ve always had a very close relationship.”
While Adam was staying on the delivery ward, a group of mothers whose children were friends of Alice drew up a timetable of care that took her from school, to ballet, to Brownies and wherever else she needed to be. It was one of many acts of kindness Adam experienced throughout the whole ordeal. Food parcels were left on his doorstep and when they realised that Mia’s milk supply wasn’t adequate, he was overwhelmed with offers of donor milk. “One particular woman who had excess milk, her very kind husband would come in from Surrey. We’d meet at the station at 7am on Monday morning and he’d hand over the milk.”
Like many stroke victims, Mia’s recovery has been slow. She eventually moved to a rehabilitation wing.
“In the later stages, she was able to take short journeys out of the hospital to the supermarket to buy food and cook it,” says Adam. “Alice and I would have a great laugh about going in and eating Mum’s spaghetti bolognese. She is a good cook but all of this had to be relearned. There were many other demands on her brain, and cooking was the least of those.”
Nearly four months after Esther’s birth, Mia was allowed home. She walked with a stick, her balance was all over the place and she felt nauseous much of the time. At first she wasn’t allowed to be left alone with the baby, so Adam had to get someone in to help. He drew up timetables and spreadsheets about who should be doing what, when. He also gave up his job.
“It soon became apparent that trying to deal with this and go back to work full time wasn’t going to work. I had to prioritise my family.”
Looking after Esther turned out to be therapeutic for Mia. “The baby was key to her rehab in just terms of everything you have to do with the baby – lifting her up, bending down, talking to her,” says Adam. Esther is now one and while Mia has no memory of that time, her recovery has been miraculous.
The couple have set up an organisation called the New Parents Stroke Group in an attempt to provide support for other families in a similar crisis. They would like to provide the sort of help that Adam desperately needed as he wandered the hospital corridors with his new baby, trying to come to terms with what was happening to his wife.
“The whole hospital experience, apart from my extreme worry, was very difficult because there was no support network in place,” he says. “I think some sort of counsellor was crucial, or someone to hold your hand along the way. We kind of fell between the cracks. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been traumatic, but thankfully I still have my wife and two gorgeous daughters.”
If you would like to donate to the New Parents Stroke Group, visit:
troke Support after Childbirth
Bringing Baby Home
Four Month Fussies
Hello Best Baby Sitting
Understand Your Pelvic Floor
Well Being and PN Depression
Stroke Support After Childbirth
Tongue Tie Division
Gentle Learning Curve
Introducing Solids Workshop
Julie's Support Groups
loVe Your Relationship