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Health / Mother pays tribute to ‘amazing’ Aberdeen neonatal staff after sharing story of son’s premature birth

Ann Thomson with her son Andy.

A WOMAN from Unst has spoken about her experience of being rushed to hospital in Aberdeen to have a baby two months early and seeing him being taken into intensive care.

Ann Thomson said the support received from the neonatal intensive care team at Aberdeen was “amazing”.

Andy is now a happy, healthy toddler, but his arrival into the world around three and half years ago came with some significant challenges.

Speaking in a video presented to NHS Shetland board members on Tuesday as part of a patient experience session, Ann said she was working as normal on a Friday morning unaware of what was to come, but after checks from a midwife she was rushed to hospital.

Andy when he reached 10 weeks old.

By a few minutes past midnight on Sunday her baby was born at 31 weeks and four days following an emergency cesarean.

But the worry had been exacerbated when her scheduled flight from Sumburgh to Aberdeen – the first one on the Saturday morning – was delayed then cancelled, and she was unable to get on the next one in the afternoon due to a lack of space.

Ann managed to get on the teatime flight that day, but she told health board members that she now felt she could have been prioritised for the full flight earlier on.

While waiting for a flight she went back to the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick for observations.

Ann, who works as a receptionist at Unst Health Centre, said in hindsight it could have been a matter of “life or death situation” for her baby when it came to not getting on flights.

When Ann and her husband Drew eventually arrived at the hospital in Aberdeen on Saturday evening they were immediately told to get something to eat.

“When we got back to the ward they put on the monitor and right away they could see that baby’s heartbeat was dropping,” she said.

Ann said they were then told to “be prepared”.

By 11pm they were informed that the baby – the couple’s first – would be safer outside than in.

Just over an hour later baby Andy was born and taken straight into intensive care.

Ann said she was reassured by hearing her baby cry after he was taken out.

“It was very quick,” she said. “But I knew that he was breathing, he was alive and he was okay. He was in the best hands.”

Due to the recovery from the C-section, it was only the next day when Ann was able to properly meet her son. Her husband was allowed to visit Andy in intensive care not long after the birth.

Ann praised the “amazing support” given by the team of nurses in Aberdeen, which included someone originally from Shetland who took the couple under her wing.

“I’m still in contact with a lot of the nurses and some of the mams,” she said, adding that some of the staff have since had premature babies of their own.

When it came time to come home to Shetland, Ann said it was both “worrying and fantastic”.

Ann, Andy and Drew.

They had spent a short period in a family room in Aberdeen designed to allow parents to sleep near their newborn.

They then went from being looked after by six maternity nurses to travelling back to Shetland on their own as a new family.

Ann said she felt the opportunity of a night or two in the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick to transition to life back in Shetland could have helped.

She said Andy is now three and a half and is enjoying time in the byre with his dad, and seeing his friends at nursery.

Members of the health board said it was a “heartwarming” story despite the difficult circumstances.

The meeting heard that the issue around the priority of passengers getting on flights was outwith NHS Shetland’s control and more in airline Loganair’s domain.

However, NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson moved to reassure members that the health board has a strong partnership with both Loganair and ferry operator NorthLink.

“We have found Loganair very supportive around a range of issues for our patients travelling back and forward,” he said.

Dickson added that this has included the airline changing timetables to cater for the needs of the health board.

Finance director Colin Marsland said Loganair should be aware of every NHS patient as they are on a special ticket.