Another dimension of Neonatal services that I learned all about during Smidge's hospital stint, was the incredulous hospital transfer system, Yes I learned all about what it feels like to have your babies' right to a hospital bed put to the bottom of the pile time and time again.
Happily oblivious to the financial restraints of the NHS, I had no idea it was every day practice to ferry vulnerable and sick babies up and down the country so they (and others) can access the care that they need.
In total, Smidge was transferred five times. What with hospitals these days all being providers of different levels of care, she was like goldilocks with the Porridge, always trying to find the hospital that was 'just right' for her.
By the time she was discharged, she'd completed a tour of the South West, putting in guest appearances at no less than four separate Intensive Care Units.
Each time a transfer was suggested, I would lovingly pack her a little suit case, with over sized nappies, her very own laundry bag and neatly stacked piles of freshly ironed incubator sheets, washed in her favourite detergent..Fairy non bio.
These sheets served multiple purposes for me. Not only was it nice for Smidge to have some level of continuity of care, but it made me feel like I was her Mum.
Another important function that the sheets served, to my way of thinking, was that they passed on subliminal messages to the nurses who were soon to become her carers.
These were the nurses at the other end of the transfers, the nurses I did not yet know and did not yet trust. These were the nurses who had never met my Smidge before, so I had to make a few things clear, through the suitcase of course.
The messages I sent were:
a) Smidge might need your medical support but she certainly doesn’t need your stupid sheets.
b) Smidge is a loved and cared for baby and anyone who comes in to contact with her better do the same.
c)There are routines and standards in place which must be adhered to, and now, you must find out from me, (Boss lady) what they are.
I think these reflections highlight the stressful nature of hospital transfers and the difficulty that I personally had moving to new environments.
Having said that I don't mean to come across as ungrateful, because as it's been pointed out to me many times before, just a few years ago, babies as premature as Smidge wouldn’t have been entitled to any help at all. But none the less, I cannot ignore the fact that vulnerable babies like her are having their lives put at further risk due to the financial restraints of the NHS.
You see, of the five hospital transfers that Smidge endured, Two were put in place not to ensure she received the right care level of care, but to make way for higher need, sicker or more local babies. That;s right, she was booted out, evicted, at less than 2lb in weight ..with feeding barely having been established.
A hospital transfer will take it's toll on any low birth weight baby, and sadly in Smidge' s case, it was all too much too soon and she ended up being referred to yet another surgical unit, once again hours from home. Of course by that point, the 'messages' were getting less and less subliminal by the day.
Any way, all of these marvellous issues and more are highlighted in the fabulous BLISS publication 'Weigh less, Worth less?' which makes a very interesting read, if, like me you've done the rounds!