"Through our torment, NNU team was outstanding"

About: Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital (Wonford)

(as the patient),

Our baby Dexter was born full term weighing 8lb 6oz. He had to be put on a ventilator straight away and was immediately transferred to the Neonatal Unit. Over the next few days various investigations and tests were done which gave us hope that he could make a full recovery. But then the results of his MRI scan came through; it showed that he was severely brain-damaged due to oxygen starvation. We then made the hardest decision of our lives – to ask the doctors not to resuscitate Dexter if he was unable to breathe on his own. He was just twelve days old when he died.

Throughout this distressing time the staff on the Neonatal Unit were outstanding. They treated Dexter with dignity throughout his short life and also after his life ended. We, as his parents were cared for with kindness and compassion. No matter how many questions we had, or how many times we asked the same thing, we were given as much time as we wanted with the consultant, paediatricians or nurses. We were always treated with courtesy and respect by everyone in the Unit and they did their best to accede to our wishes.

Always ensuring Dexter was as comfortable as possible, the staff made us feel that his life was as significant to them as it was to us. Nurse Jan Edwards made a print of his feet and hands and put them together in a card with some clippings of his hair. On Father’s Day there was some chocolate for me that was labelled from Dexter.

Dexter was admitted when the NNU was at the old site in Heavitree and then went to the new hospital when the department was transferred to the new Centre for Women’s Health at the Wonford site. The quality of care was first class at the old hospital and uninterrupted during the move to the new premises. Despite the gravity of the cases and all the bleeping equipment the NNU always seemed like a calm and orderly caring environment.

As Dexter had spent his whole life in an incubator with various lines going into his little body we asked that he be able to spend his final moments outside in the daylight. The staff arranged for us to sit outdoors in a fragrant garden with our son for his last moments. For the first time, he was not attached to lots of machines but in our arms like an ordinary baby. We cradled him in our arms as he died and then wandered over to a wooded part of the hospital grounds where we spent some time alone with him. This was important for us and the staff at the NNU did their utmost to ensure he spent his final moments in the way that we wanted.

During his time on the NNU it often it felt like we were powerless to help our little boy and it was humbling to see these highly skilled professionals do their work. We have the highest regard for these committed and dedicated people, who cared for our family in our moments of greatest anguish. They are an extraordinary team and a credit to the NHS.

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Thank you for your time and your courage in sharing your story on Patient Opinion. I'm sure that everyone will find it as moving as we did. And I know that others who have gone, or are going through similar experiences will find your posting helpful. We always forward appreciative stories to the staff and the Chief Executive at the hospital concerned and we will certainly make sure that your story and thanks are seen by the Royal Exeter and Devon. In this way your posting and story will also provide a strong message and support to NHS staff. Thanks and Best wishes UK SANDS is a very useful self help group for people who have experienced stillbirth and neonatal death.
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