Woman in labour passed around FOUR hospitals to find cots for twins

Eleanor with newborn twin Katie
Eleanor with newborn twin Katie

A new mum has revealed how she was passed round FOUR different hospitals while in labour – because there were no cots for her premature twins.

Bangor mum Eleanor Brown was sent on a wild goose chase from the Ulster Hospital to the Royal because they couldn’t cope, who sent her home, before she landed back at the Ulster, who still couldn’t cope and sent her to Craigavon who then sent her by ambulance to Derry because they couldn’t cope either.

Twins Katie and Emily were born ten days ago at Altnagelvin Hospital and are fighting to survive in intensive care cots after arriving nine weeks premature.

But bank worker Eleanor and her husband Ross have now been told, despite their already harrowing ordeal, that the twins could face being split up if a “sicker” baby is admitted to the under-pressure hospital.

Eleanor, who’s 25, says she asked how she would be able to feed both twins if they were 90 miles apart in different hospitals – but was told she should take the bus!

The whole experience, according to Eleanor, has left her in “shock”.

“I think we are still in a bit of shock at what has happened to us,” she said.

 “It has been very difficult and it was very scary being shifted from pillar to post whilst being in labour.

“There has been very little elation or joy because the babies are so small and are still so vulnerable but the way we have been treated has made all that much worse.”

Amid the trauma of their cross country birth dash, the couple are having to deal with the arrival of two fragile premature babies, couple with the possibility the girls may be seperated, days after coming into the world together.

“The girls are doing as best they can and doctors are hopeful they will be OK but it’s very hard. At the start we were looking at them ad you were almost scared to love them in case they were taken away from us.

 Eleanor and her husband Ross 

“But after everything we have been through it’s unbelievable that there’s a chance they could try and split the girls apart.”

Staff at Alnagelvin have told them should a baby be born in poorer health than theirs, either Katie or Emily will be moved to another hospital,because there isn’t enough cots in the intensive care unit to cope.

“I asked one of the nurses how I was going to feed them both if one was in Londonderry and the other was in Belfast and she told me there’s a bus goes from Londonderry straight into Belfast!”

Eleanor said it was an isolated incident as almost all the staff they encountered at the four hospitals have been `brilliant.’

The new mother was disharged on Wednesday but with their babies in Derry, 80 miles from their Bangor home and with Eleanor feeding the children by herself, will have to find temporary accomodation in the north west to be near their babies.

“My husband has already been paying £70 a night to stay in a local hotel, that doesn’t bother us.

“But what we are refusing to accept is the possibility they could separate the twins. It’s completely wrong.”

Their plight, and the fact they had to be ferried across the country to find a safe place to give birth,  has further underlined the fragility of a creaking Health Service.

Eleanor says she had been expecting a relatively ‘normal’ birth until she started feeling labour pains nine weeks early.

“Everything was going so well. We only got married seven months ago and thought it would take ages to get pregnant but we conceived on the wedding night!”

The excited couple expected to have their children at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, a few miles from their Bangor home.

“It’s the  closest one to us and that’s where our consultant was and where we had attended all the neo-natal classes.

“But that all went out the window when I started getting contractions on Monday (Feb 23). I panicked and drove myself to the Ulster.”

Worried about her unborn babies’ health she couldn’t have known it was the start of a hellish journey to the other side of the country.

At the Ulster they medicated her to try and slow the onset of labour  but told her they would be sending her to the Royal because they didn’t have enough cots.

At the Royal - home to the Hospital for Sick Children - her contractions slowed and she was sent home only for them to start again on Wednesday.  Back to the Ulster she went only to be told they couldn’t take her and sent her back to the Royal where worse was to come.

Now fearing she as in labour she was horrified to hear she couldn’t stay there and was loaded into an ambulance bound for Craigavon Area Hospital.

When we got to Craigavon they gave me medication to stop or slow down the labour and by Thursday they had eased so they were going to send me home again.


“But then it started all again and when they examined me they found I was two centimetres dilated and the babies were in breech.”

 Incredibly the couple were told the babies could not be born in Criagavon because of a lack of cots and she was to be transferred by ambulance, in full labour, to Altnagelvin!

With a midwife and worried husband Ross clutching her hand they endured a nightmare 90 minute journey to Derry.

“I was in severe pain and the midwife looked terrified that the babies were going to be born in the ambulance.”

At Altnagelvin the anxious coupld were told staff would struggle to cope should they have to perform a c-section during the night - but the girls weren’t for waiting.

“They wanted me to wait until Friday morning but as it turned out they had to do it at night because my waters broke.”

Katie was born just before 10.30pm on Friday February 27, weighing just 3lbs, sister Emily arrived a minute later 3lbs 13oz.

“If it had all happened in the Ulster we would have felt more comfortable because we would have known the nurses and doctors,” says Eleanor.

“But everywhere we have been sent its new doctors, new midwives and the whole experience has robbed us of the excitement we should be feeling.”

 A spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board said: "The safety of the babies is paramount and ensuring the babies receive their care in the right neonatal environment is the primary aim.

 "Whilst the service endeavours to provide care as close to the families' home as possible, as is the case with the rest of the UK, this cannot be achieved on all occasions.

 "Where babies have to be moved to a neonatal unit outside of their own trust for clinical reasons, trusts make every effort to repatriate back to their home trust as soon as possible.

 "Neonatal services are currently provided in all five Health and Social Care Trust areas.

 "The neonatal units across the region work very closely together in a 'network' arrangement to ensure that all babies get the clinical care they need and that the valuable neonatal cot resource is used appropriately."

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