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Melanie’s story – How she fought to survive Swine Flu & Charlotte born 34 weeks

Where to begin…

I have had the privilege of having 2 amazing little miracles.

My first a son Thomas whom was born at 30weeks. Weighing 4pds 2 oz he will be 5 in 2 weeks time. My second premmie a little girl Charlotte born at 34 weeks currently 6 months old.

My second pregnancy provided to be my most challenging for myself, my baby and my extended family. I was very ill and was placed in an induced coma in ICU Epworth Freemasons with the deadly swine flu.

With my second pregnancy I finished work as a part time teacher at 18 weeks. Playing it safe after having a premmie without any real answer to why, we all thought It was best. However at 29 weeks I came down with a very nasty chest infection, which put me in bed for a week. After going to my local GP and talking to my obstetrician some blood tests were taking and came back fine. Thursday night I was finding it difficult to breath I couldn’t stop coughing I was worried. I really thought that I was going to cough this baby out I was already nervous that I was near the 30 week marker like my previous pregnancy.

My husband contacted the GP after hours number and with concern they recommended that we head to Epworth Emergency in Richmond. I had my parents come collect my sleeping little man, I didn’t even get to say good bye to him he was still fast asleep in my Dad’s arms. Once at the Epworth I was seen to straight away placed on oxygen. After a number of tests and screens I was diagnosed with having a nasty case of pneumonia. Due to my pregnancy they recommended I be admitted to Epworth Freemasons Intensive Care Unit.

It then became serious and I was advised it would be best to go on a ventilator for a few days for my lungs to rest and give me the best possible chance to continue carrying our little girl. ( yes we cheated we found out the sex) I agreed for this to happen with my husband. If I hadn’t it would have been done only a coupe of hours later anyway. Which may have been too late. I really knew I was in trouble I was now fighting for my breath and don’t remember talking to my son or my mother on the phone I was just too exhausted. I made my husband take a list of things to do (I love my lists!). All things from where Thomas’s photo memory DVD’s were to where to find the premmie clothes I so dreaded to get ready. Even made him write down the correct spelling of our unborn child’s name.

10 days later I was woken up from the coma, not a pretty experience for my family in those 10days I have only been told minimal information. Basically I lead everyone to hell and back my family by my side were told things would get worse before they got better on the 3rd night of being in the coma it looked like they were going to perform a Caesarean I was then 30 weeks. There would have been no guarantees. They were working on a knifes edge they still didn’t have a good diagnosis all my blood work was coming back negative to swine flu etc. if they performed the Caesarean they may have lost both myself and charlotte.

They held off and as they all tell me I started to behave myself. Not fighting the machine and letting my body recovery. After the 10 day period it took over a week for myself to understand where I was and what had happened and to acknowledge that I was still pregnant. The medication that I needed whilst in the coma sent my mind in to crazy and negative thoughts. As I was sedated for a long period of time Charlotte was too. I wasn’t able to feel movement for over 2 weeks. I thought they have taken Charlotte. I kept asking my husband which hospital she was and to show me a photo. He was always rubbing my tummy telling me she was safe and still growing.

I was asking the nursing staff who were monitoring me even with the ECG on 4 or so times a day them showing me the screen of her heart beat, I still didn’t believe them. I thought it was a recording. I put my poor family through hell. Not to mention the nursing staff and my poor husband. I also let the cat out of the bag to my family that we were having a girl and the name I was looking at calling her. The medication played a lot of tricks on my mind an experience one doesn’t wish to have. A lot of negative dreams and thoughts which lasted a long time and I still have flash backs now. One memory I have waking up was a photo stuck to the TV of my husband and little man Thomas with there BIG smiles. After a couple of days he held up Thomas’s kinder photos to me that just got sent home. I didn’t let them out of my sight. This is what kept me fighting!

After 3 weeks in ICU I finally got to see my 4 year old son. I was still fogging in the head but all the staff made sure that all my central lines and monitor leads were hidden so it wasn’t as scary for him. I loved seeing him!

After 21 days in ICU the results were finally in I had indeed contracted Swine Flu. This was only possible through the lengths my obstrician went too, to try and get the right diagnoses to treat myself but also charlotte if they were to delver her. I was just starting to move from my bed to chair added with a frame and nurse. I was then transferred over to the maternity section of Epworth Freemasons on Victoria parade. As I lost a lot of weight while in ICU I was sent to fatten back up and gain my strength. Epworth was amazing especially the nursing director whom looked after and monitored me in ICU and cared for me over in maternity.

I was treated like a princess! I was learning to walk again small distances with a BIG belly at 34 weeks. I had never been that big before. I was lucky enough to go home for 4 days with my family were I continued bed rest. Late on the 29th September my water broke. A very quick 35 minute drive into Freemasons arriving just in time as I was 8 cm dilated little Miss Charlotte was born. Another fast labor only 2 hours in total.

Charlotte’s story as a premmie is a positive one.

Born 30th September @ 34 weeks 4 days @ 12.35am at a BIG size of 6pd 12oz 3.030kgs. Charlotte was only admitted to Special care nursery for 2 weeks. A blessing as my first was in NICU & SCN for over 5. My first visit to Charlotte in the nursery was surreal. My husband thought the drugs from the coma were still making me crazy. I said that can’t be my baby she is too Big and there is no tubes! Charlotte required no ventilation or assistance with her breathing. She was out of the humidity crib within 10 hours. There were no bells and whistles no drip, no tubes apart from her feed tube. I was able to hold her straight away!

The message I really want to be taken from my experience is to get your flu injection! Even when pregnant we are more susceptible to getting it and treatment is difficult.

Just this last weekend Charlotte had her christening a milestone in my eyes for not only Charlotte’s journey but also my family and mine.

Writing this down going through these events in my head again. I think has been part of my recovery and dealing with what really happened. I now step back a really know how lucky I am and how life is precious. This is only a brief recount of what happened. As I said for an article I wrote for the Epworth Medical foundation “I would give my right arm for the nurses and doctors at Epworth.” In all 3 hospitals I was in over the period of time.


Melanie, mum to 2 little Treasures


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