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A very brave Dad & Jessica’s Trust

by on Aug.12, 2009, under My thoughts...

When I first started on Twitter I came across a young Dad twittering on behalf of Jessica’s Trust….intrigued I followed the click-able link….for the next few hours shed a few tears and gained a knowledge of childbed fever

The brave Dad who I discovered on Twitter is called Ben Palmer…..and Jessica? – His wife and mother of their two children.

Ben became a daddy for the second time and just six days after the uncomplicated birth of his daughter…..he became a widower. His wife died in June 2004 aged 34 from Childbed fever.

Ben and Jessica’s story….

Jessica Palmer was exhausted but she had planned the scene meticulously – she was lying in bed with her arms outstretched waiting for her toddler son, Harry, to come and greet his newborn sister.

Emily, born the day before, was in her crib so that Harry, rather than the family’s new arrival, would feel that he was the centre of attention. By the bedside, hidden under a blanket, was a shiny new yellow toy tractor, a gift for Harry from his new sibling…………..

Ben arrived at the hospital the next day expecting to take his wife and new daughter home. Shortly before he arrived, the midwife had been having difficulty taking Jessica’s blood pressure and had called Dr Ong, the anaesthetist, who happened to be on the ward.

Dr Ong checked Jessica and was concerned by her raised temperature, low blood pressure and high pulse and said the obstetrician should see her before she was discharged. She was eventually seen at eight that evening but when Ben came to collect her and asked if her blood pressure had been checked, Jessica told him that the doctor had “just chatted”.

Ben, still concerned, asked yet another midwife if his wife was all right and was told that she was fine and could go home. Soon after getting home, Jessica complained of being cold. “She was shivering and her lips were blue,” Ben recalls. “Within minutes of getting into bed she was red and hot so I took her temperature and it was 39.8 or 39.9.”

Ben was worried but his wife insisted that she just needed to sleep. The next morning, Jessica became tired and edgy again. When Mrs O’Connor, the midwife, tried to ring the Palmers’ telephone, it was engaged and she left a message saying that she would probably not have time to visit that day.

Alarmed, Ben rang her back, telling her that Jessica had had a high temperature and asking her to call by; she said she would try but did not make it. That night Jessica’s temperature went up again to around 38.8 and so on the midwife’s advice, Ben gave her some Panadol.

On Sunday, she was tired and irritable and when she took a bath that morning she and Ben noticed a red patch on her stomach. The couple’s families arrived with Champagne but Jessica could manage only a sip.

At midday, when the midwife came she noted that Jessica felt feverish but failed to take her temperature because, as she stated at the inquest, she did not have her thermometer. She had no answer when the coroner queried why she had not asked to use the family’s thermometer.

By Monday morning, Jessica was suffering from a pain in her lower back and leg. She called her GP’s surgery and the doctor diagnosed sciatica. However, by Tuesday, Jessica was finding it difficult to sit up and was in intense pain.

She went to her local surgery where the doctor recognised that she was seriously ill and an ambulance was called. Jessica was given oxygen and raced to hospital. As Ben, bewildered, followed behind in his car with his young daughter, he remembers clearly saying to the tail lights of the ambulance with its flashing blue siren: “Don’t leave me, Jessica. Don’t leave me.”

Jessica was taken to accident and emergency where she was stabilised and moved to intensive care. Her breathing was laboured and doctors told Ben that the antibiotics she had been given were not working as quickly as was hoped.

He eventually went home to see the children but at 1.30am the hospital called to say that Jessica was on a ventilator and he returned. His wife was already on dialysis, her skin blue and blotchy. When Ben asked if she might die, a nurse told him sadly: “She might well do.” He sat by her bedside, holding her hand, willing her to live.

In the morning, Ben went home again but received another call – this time asking what religion Jessica was and did he want a chaplain called. Devastated, he returned to the hospital where doctors gently told him that the only possible hope was an operation.

“I just had to let her have every possible chance – I said yes,” he says, his voice breaking. It was then that he cradled his wife’s head and begged her, once again, not to leave him.

But it took Ben only one look at the doctor’s face to know that Jessica had not made it through the procedure. He sat with his dead wife, surrounded by photographs of Harry.

“I knew she couldn’t see them, but it comforted me that they were there,” he says. “I had lost the wife I loved, the perfect companion and mother to my children.”

Being a mum of four children, this story struck me to the core, and while I appreciate there was a blunder amongst the healthcare professionals who should have been looking after Jessica, and I agree that “mums” are very often overlooked when baby enters the world….I also know that most midwives are restricted by a constant frustration and constraint of time, money and lack of resources in a crippled service….but above all there is a lack of education out there, I was diagnosed as Strep B when I delivered my second baby… next two pregnancies I was the one who pointed this out to the midwifes….(one of which “had heard of Strep B…but never come across it….!!)

So this very brave dad is trying to raise awareness of childbed fever….and campaigning for the national use of Modified Obstetric Early Warning System (MEOWS) chart.

Our primary aim is to raise awareness of childbed fever: we would like every parent and every midwife and doctor to know that childbed fever (also called puerperal fever or puerperal sepsis) is still a very real threat to a mother’s life.

In the same way that every parent knows the danger of Meningitis, we believe that parents should be told about sepsis and childbed fever in ante natal classes and at the point of post natal discharge.”

Please click on the link below, if you are pregnant or know someone who is pregnant or are a healthcare professional who wishes to know more…..     sign the petition…. It might just save one mummy…


Carry on the fantastic work you are doing Ben…. you are a complete inspiration….I am sure Jessica proudly looks on.



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