Parents’ experiences of neonatal surgery


Age at interview: 42
Age at diagnosis: 41

Brief outline: Mary was expecting her first child. He was born by emergency caesarean at 37 weeks and needed abdominal surgery when he was a few days old.

Background: Mary is married. She works in the banking sector and has one son.

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Mary was pregnant with her first child. The pregnancy went well until she developed abdominal pain in her 37th week. She went to hospital to have it checked out, and doctors suspected she was having a placental abruption* and delivered her son by emergency caesarean. Although he was initially well, when he was a few hours old, doctors became worried about his blood sugar levels and he was transferred to neonatal intensive care (NICU)*. He was unable to keep his milk down and his stomach was becoming distended. At two days old he was transferred to another hospital in the same city that had a specialist paediatric surgery unit. He had exploratory surgery when he was three days old, and a stoma fitted. Although doctors performed lots of tests and ruled out many conditions (such as cystic fibrosis), they were never able to work out definitively what was wrong with him. He remained in NICU and special care for 4 weeks until he was well enough to come home. Mary was soon discharged from the hospital that she gave birth in, and was travelling every day to spend time with her baby and learn how to care for him and manage his stoma. He was discharged home with the stoma bag until the surgeons judged he was strong enough to undergo the stoma reversal operation. He had this operation when he was three months old, which was successful. At the time of the interview he was 6 months old, and making a good recovery. 

* Placental abruption
A serious condition where the placenta starts to come away from the inside of the womb wall.

*Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU)
A unit for critically ill newborn babies and infants who need the highest level of nursing and medical care. Babies in NICU often require support for their breathing. Those undergoing major surgery will often be looked after in a NICU.


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