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A Covid miracle: Mum thanks NHS heroes after she and her newborn baby survived harrowing fight for life

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A new mum hailed the NHS yesterday after she survived three life-threatening medical emergencies as her premature baby fought and won her own fight for life.

Mhairi Mornin contracted Covid-19, sepsis and suffered a burst gall bladder after holding baby Demi for just a few ­precious seconds.

The newborn, weighing just 3lb 4oz and born two months early, was rushed to a premature baby unit where doctors feared she may also have coronavirus.

Mhairi, a mum of four, was so afraid she was going to die ­during the harrowing weeks that followed, she sent a loving ­message to her kids telling them to always remember how much she loved them.

Mhairi, 35, from Renfrewshire, said: “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, but I knew I was so ill I might not survive. I needed my kids to know how much I loved them and I was fighting with everything I had to see them grow up.”

© Andrew Cawley
Mhairi with the family she feared she would never see again – son William, husband Stephen, daughter Dion and son James

During her two-week fight for life, Mhairi was rushed into Paisley’s Royal Alexandra Maternity Unit for an emergency caesarian just 30 weeks into her pregnancy after suffering fluctuating blood pressure, soaring heart rate and rising temperature.

She said: “I’d been attending the day clinic at the maternity unit for several days when I began to feel quite unwell. I had a sore head, my heart was racing. I was feeling awful. On May 20, I was admitted to the maternity unit in the hope things would calm down. But they didn’t and that night I was rushed into the operating theatre and had an emergency C-section. Demi was born at 1.19am on May 21.”

Because Demi was born so early, and Mhairi’s health continued to cause concern, doctors told the mum she couldn’t see her new baby. Mhairi said: “I’d only seen Demi for a few seconds before she was rushed off to the special baby unit. I lay in bed ­crying, wondering if it was the first and last time I’d see her.”

As baby Demi’s life hung in the balance, so did Mhairi’s. Instead of recovering from the emergency surgery, the mum became weaker and sicker.

She said: “I was sore all over. My head and throat were very sore. I was burning up on the outside but freezing cold on the inside. I’d heard about Covid and said to the nurses I was worried I’d picked it up. But they reassured me it was just a reaction to having the emergency surgery.”

The following day her ­condition deteriorated.

Mhairi said: “By that time my baby hormones had kicked in and I kept crying as well as shivering. I was convinced I had Covid and I was worried I’d infect the other mums and babies. So the hospital tested me and Demi.

“I was so anxious I couldn’t sleep. The nurses sat up all night comforting me but I was inconsolable. Everything was made worse because I was so ill I couldn’t see Demi, and I couldn’t have my family near me because everything was in lockdown.”

Baby Demi recovers in hospital

The situation became even worse hours later when an excruciating pain in her abdomen was revealed during a scan to be a ruptured gall bladder.

A crash team was sent to ­operate but, because Mhairi was so ill, surgeons felt they could not remove her gall bladder and had to rely on surgical drains. Back on the ward, Mhairi battled to recover but couldn’t understand why she still felt so ill. She said: “I was in terrible pain, which didn’t seem to be just from the surgery.

“My temperature was still through the roof and I’d drift off into unconsciousness and have the most terrible dreams. I was then told I had sepsis.

“That was when I plucked up all the strength I could to send a last message to my eldest son, William. I didn’t want to frighten my boy James because he is only 15, and my daughter Dion is just 11. Neither of them would have been able to understand what I needed to say and my husband Stephen was all over the place, worrying about me and Demi.

“I chose William to say what I needed to because he’s 19 and has always been a sensible boy. I knew he would do what I asked.”

Mhairi told William to always remember how much she loved him and begged him to stick together with his brothers and sisters. The mum had just sent the message when she was told her Covid test was positive and she then found herself battling the deadly virus as well as sepsis.

She said: “I was taken to ICU. All around me other patients were fighting for their lives as the doctors and nurses did their best to comfort and treat them.

“It was like being in a disaster movie. All the staff were wearing visors, masks, gowns and gloves.

“A couple of other patients died and I don’t think I’ve ever been so frightened. Patients were hooked up to machines and their beds were put into special positions to try to help them breathe.

“I didn’t ever think I’d get out alive. I was given very strong antibiotics. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep.

“I was afraid if I closed my eyes I’d never wake up again. The only thing that kept me fighting was the thought of my family growing up without me.

“I knew I had to find the strength from somewhere to keep going for them.”

As Mhairi battled both sepsis and Covid, her husband Stephen, 41, had to self-quarantine.

He said: “The thought of ­losing Mhairi was driving me out of my mind, but I couldn’t even comfort her, the kids, or touch the baby. There were several days when it seemed my whole world was collapsing in front of my eyes, and I was helpless to do anything except stay at home and keep away from other people.

“I didn’t get access to a test, but there’s no doubt I had Covid. I was lucky I didn’t get sick enough to end up in hospital too, but it still took it out of me.”

 

At the hospital, nurses kept showing Mhairi photographs and videos of baby Demi, urging her to keep fighting to get better.

Mhairi said: “They told me Demi’s Covid tests were clear, and it was such a relief. But it was hitting me hard and for several days I was so ill. I was talking to a nurse I’d gone all through school with and didn’t even recognise who she was.

“The hospital expected me to end up on a ventilator but, by some miracle, I managed without one. After what seemed like an eternity, I began responding.

“But being so far apart from my family and new baby was having a major effect on my psychological health. I knew I had to get out of hospital and back to my kids if I was going to recover.”

Mhairi was discharged from hospital 10 days ago with strict instructions on how to keep herself and her family safe. The new mum will require surgery to remove her gall bladder once she is well enough.

Until then, twice a day, with the use of PPE, she is still able to see baby Demi in the special baby unit. And there are plans for Demi to get out of hospital in two weeks if she continues to flourish and her Covid tests remain clear.

For now, her brothers and ­sister have to make do with seeing a picture of baby Demi as she gets stronger each day. Mhairi is still frail, but very relieved to be back with her family.

She said: “Things could have turned out very differently for me if it hadn’t been for the ­wonderful treatment and support I got at the RAH.

“Seeing how ill those other Covid patients were will stay with me forever. I know now how close I came to not being here, and that makes life even sweeter and me more determined to enjoy every minute I have with my kids and the people I love.”

Nurses at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley, give Mhairi a send-off as the mum of four is finally discharged

Dr Hilary Conetta, a ­consultant at the neonatal unit, said: “We are delighted to hear such lovely feedback from Mhairi. Demi is making excellent progress in the neonatal unit, and we are glad Mhairi is now improving and able to visit her.

“From a neonatal perspective, whilst Covid-19 has not made any of our neonatal patients unwell, it has considerably impacted on the way we care for our patients and families.

“Across GGC (Greater Glasgow and Clyde) visiting has been necessarily significantly restricted, but this has made it much harder for parents/carers to spend time with their baby as a family unit, and get to participate fully in the baby’s care.

“We know how stressful this has been for the families of the babies in our unit. We have had to adapt to this difficult situation by using other ways to keep them in contact with their baby when unable to be with their baby in the hospital.”

Claire Hunter, a ­neonatal nurse at the hospital, said staff send video clips and pictures of babies to parents when they cannot be with them, adding: “Parents have found this very reassuring during these difficult times. Parents can also choose to have staff update their baby’s journal.

“During Demi’s stay, when Mhairi couldn’t be with her, nursing staff have kept the ­journal up to date with entries and pictures.”