‘Doctors had 10 minutes to save my baby’ - Norwich mother’s gratitude to quick-thinking medics after umbilical slips out of her, putting infant in mortal peril

Jemma Barker with her newborn son Harry Barker.

Jemma Barker with her newborn son Harry Barker. - Credit: Archant

The parents of a baby born eight weeks early today hailed the quick-thinking midwives and doctors who saved their child's life in a dramatic birth.

When heavily pregnant Jemma Barker got out of her hospital bed one evening, she had no idea how crucial the next 10 minutes would be.

As the 33-year-old dentist stood up, the umbilical cord – essential for keeping the unborn baby alive – slipped out of her body in a rare incident called 'umbilical cord prolapse'.

It meant medics at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital had just 10 minutes to perform the emergency caesarean that would save the baby.

'My first thought was that my baby wasn't going to survive,' said Mrs Barker, of Cecil Road, Norwich.


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'Fortunately it happened just when I was with my midwife who was going to test my vitals, and she rang an alarm.

'Within 10 seconds there were 10 people in the room and two minutes later I was going under general anaesthetic.'

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Every second counted for the doctors battling to save the baby, while Mrs Barker's husband, Robin, endured an agonising wait outside.

But thanks to the skill of the medical staff, tiny Harry was born just minutes later, and survived after rescucitation.

Due to the dramatic nature of his birth Harry, who weighed four pounds three ounces (1.9kg), was taken to the hospital's neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU), where he stayed for a further five weeks.

'I remember Robin telling me our baby was OK,' Mrs Barker said.

'When I saw him for the first time in his incubator in the NICU he looked about as big as a Sky TV remote.'

And while most new parents get to take their bundles of joy home – Mr and Mrs Barker spent the first weeks of their son's life visiting him in hospital where they were 'brilliantly looked after' by the NICU team.

'It was very difficult not to be with him 24/7,' Mrs Barker said.

'As a new mum I couldn't take him home. I wouldn't wish that feeling on anyone.

'The NICU staff were amazing and they taught us things like tube feeding him.

'When we first took him home after five weeks it was a hugely emotional moment.'

Six months on Harry is now a healthy baby but his parents have not forgotten the way they were treated at the hospital.

'The staff were brilliant,' Mrs Barker said.

'We were acutely aware that – despite how unlucky we felt at times that we were robbed of a normal birth experience – we got to take our baby home.

'Other people aren't so lucky.'

* An appeal set up to raise money for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust Charitable Fund to say thank you for taking care of Harry has already raised more than £1,300. To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/HarrysRide

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