by S Lowe 5THE FM’s newsonlinewattlerangenow
A Reedy Creek woman in labour narrowly avoided a roadside birth after an emergency detour to the Millicent Hospital in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Beau Oliver was born at 4.30 am weighing 3.5k, just minutes after the couple arrived at the hospital.
Madeline and Josh Hancock were expecting their second child to be born at the Mt Gambier Hospital when Madeline felt the first twinges of labour at 1-30 am Tuesday morning. She woke husband Josh soon after and they put their delivery plan into action. The couple have a 2 ½ year old son Tait and labour had taken 15 hours when he was born so they expected to have at least a few hours before the actual birth.
At 2-45am Josh called his parents to stay with their son Tait, knowing it would take about 30 minutes for them to arrive. They arrived at 3-15am and Josh and Madeline left at 3-30am. They contacted the Mt Gambier Hospital to let them know they were on their way. Madeline’s contractions were 15 minutes apart but they were not concerned about reaching Mt Gambier at this stage, thinking they had time and no alternative but to go to Mt Gambier Hospital where they were booked in to deliver.
Josh said Madeline was in normal labour for the first part of the trip, but half an hour later he could hear a shift in her breathing and she told him she needed to push.
Josh and Madeline are patients of Dr James Bushell from the Medical Clinic Millicent, so when they stopped for a few minutes to make Madeline more comfortable, Josh phoned Dr Bushell to tell him Madeline was in labour and they were on their way to Mt Gambier
Josh said he’d been present for the birth of their son Tait so he could tell when Madeline’s labour changed to pushing, but they were still 40 ks from Millicent and he was concerned they would not reach Mt Gambier Hospital in time.
“When I rang the hospital they told me not to speed, but my wife is on all fours on the back seat of the car because she could not sit and she is in full pushing stage, ready to give birth; what choice do I have?”
“My dilemma at this stage, as the father and husband is – do I stop and help her or do I keep driving to get help?”
“All I wanted to do was get to a hospital, doctor or no doctor, at least there would be a nurse who could help us, and I wouldn’t be alone delivering the baby on the side of the road.” Josh said as a farmer he probably could have delivered the baby, but it’s not ideal.
“As the lights of Millicent came into view I told Madeline I could see the lights and we might make it to get help.”
Madeline said her body had taken over and all the panting in the world would not stop the baby from being born. “I was about to tell Josh to stop and help me into the back so that I could at least lie down to deliver and it was just then he told me he could see the lights of Millicent.”
“ I knew I was about to give birth but Josh saying he could see the lights, gave me hope that we might reach help in time,” said Madeline. “The book says to pant but panting wasn’t helping.”
Josh said he was still undecided whether to go to Millicent or turn onto the by-pass to Mt Gambier as they had planned, so he called Dr Bushell again at 4-20am.
“I told Dr Bushell Madeline was pushing and he told me to go straight to the Millicent Hospital and he would meet us there. We were now facing an emergency. Dr Bushell said he would assess Madeline and decide whether she could go onto Mt Gambier and if that was the case, he would follow us.”
Dr Bushell rang the Millicent Hospital at 4.21am and told them to prepare for a birth and to call a midwife. Madeline and Josh arrived just moments before Dr Bushell and were waiting at the emergency door when he arrived at 4-26am and let them in. The 2 nurses on duty were preparing the delivery room.
Madeline was taken straight to the delivery room and the baby was born 2 contractions later – just after 4-30am. The midwife had arrived 5 minutes after Dr Bushell, just in time for the birth.
It is 2 years since birthing was stopped at the Millicent Hospital but Madeline and Josh praised the nurses on duty saying, “ they were amazing and were prepared to deal with such an emergency.”
“It’s thrilling to have a baby and we wanted the same experience we had with our first one ,” said Josh. “ We wanted a natural birth if possible and we’ve had a good outcome with Madeline and Beau safe and well; but the lead up during those last hours were, to say the least – not enjoyable.”
“It’s a lonely feeling, on a dark road with your wife in labour, telling you she is pushing and the baby is going to be born any minute. “
“My chest was tight, I felt sick and I knew there was nothing ideal about delivering the baby by myself on the side of the road in the dark; it was 4 degrees too. I just kept thinking that if I could get to a hospital I could get help.”
After their experience on Tuesday the couple said they believe that commonsense should prevail in the decision making about services in the country. “Closing facilities like Millicent Hospital Obstetrics is a backward step in a developed country. Why can’t low-risk births take place at the Millicent Hospital. A hospital safer than the back of a car.”
With some back-up from Mt Gambier doctors, couldn’t we still be having babies at the Millicent Hospital, they ask. “Surely it is better option for a doctor to drive from Mt Gambier to Millicent to help with a birth, than a woman in labour to be driven to Mt Gambier.”
Communities like Millicent built hospitals because they wanted facilities to be closer to the people needing them and it worked for years. Taking them away is no solution, it’s a backward step Josh says.
Reedy Creek is approximately 140k from Mt Gambier and 90k from Millicent. Naracoorte is a similar distance but when they inquired about an appointment in the early stages of the pregnancy there wasn’t one available and this would have meant delays in telling family, so they decided to come to Dr Bushell in Millicent, who had delivered their first son.
If Dr Bushell had not been available Tuesday to put emergency plans in place, the new parents said they would almost certainly have had Beau in the car on the side of the road because this labour was much quicker than they expected, lasting just 3 hours from Madeline’s first twinge.
Josh and Madeline are also concerned for other expectant parents in the region, many of them farmers like Josh who can’t pack up in the weeks leading up to the birth and stay in Mt Gambier or Adelaide to be closer to facilities, and if the mother-to-be must stay closer to available services, the new father may miss out on the birth because he can’t get there on time.
“There’s nothing ideal about this situation,” they said.
Josh’s family was involved in the Kingston Hospital when the obstetrics services were closed there. The people of Kingston were told they didn’t need obstetric services because Millicent Hospital was just down the road; only to find a short time later that Millicent Hospital Obstetric Services would not be just down the road; because they would be closed too they said.
“If we’d known this was going to happen perhaps we would have fought harder to keep Kingston’s services, but we were assured Millicent would be available.”
Madeline and Josh have only positive things to say about their stay at Millicent Hospital. Josh can stay with Madeline and the new baby, he can make trips home to see Tait and bring him in to see his mun and the new baby and Josh can even fit in some farm work when needed. The flexibility works well for us all, we can share the whole experience and the staff here has been amazing. It’s relaxed and just a wonderful experience at the Millicent Hospital they said.
Editors note:- A public meeting in Millicent, attended by 650 people voicing their objection about the planned closure of Obstetric Services at the Millicent Hospital and a petition of thousands of signatures tabled in parliament 2 years ago, failed to changed the mind of Country Health SA and the closure went ahead. All Obstetric Services have now been closed between Murray Bridge and Mt Gambier, a distance of 364k.