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October 2013
A complicated labour
Oct 28, 2013 8:20 PM

I grew up in a small community and moved back again soon after university. I have always felt proud and safe knowing that there was a first rate hospital near by if ever I needed it, and until the birth of my daughter on January 21, I never have.

Unfortunately my wife’s labour process was a complicated one. Her labour began Thursday January 18th and did not end until the birth of my daughter 79 hours later. During this time, my entire perception of my local hospital was completely shattered.

Throughout the 79 hours, my wife was unable to eat or sleep. The latency period of her labour started off normal enough. Contractions were infrequent and random but starting Friday morning, the contractions became much more intense, 4 to 5 minutes apart and lasting up to 2 minutes each. We made the trip to our local hospital and soon after we were sent home, as she was only 1 cm dilated. We waited about 24 hours before making another trip to your facility, as my wife’s contractions were now quite regularly 5 minutes apart and lasting 3 minutes. Again we were told she was only 1 cm dilated but she was offered a morphine shot this time, as she had been unable to sleep or eat since Thursday night when her contractions began.

Following the morphine shot, my wife was able to rest for just over one hour with less frequent and less intense contractions but the effects of the morphine wore off just over two hours later and her contractions went back to the same frequency and length as before, but they were now more painful and intense than before. Due to the increase in intensity of the contractions, the complete lack of sleep and food and the now semi-frequent vomiting she was experiencing, we again made the trip to our hospital. While there, our midwife told us she would speak with the obstetrician to see if she could be induced as her labour at this point had already gone on for an extended period of time and my wife was becoming weaker and more distraught.

The obstetrician on call came to speak with us as they decided they would not induce my wife due to what they termed as “no medical reason to do so”. They instead gave her another shot of morphine and one bag of intravenous fluid to assist with the complete lack of nutrients and possible dehydration from the vomiting. The obstetrician also informed us, the morphine shot my wife received earlier would have knocked him out for a week. Unfortunately for my wife the morphine shot she received this time did not reduce the frequency of the contractions and only made a slight difference with respect to the intensity and associated pain. Our midwife told us to go home, try to rest, and maybe try again the next morning if nothing has changed and hopefully there would be progress with the dilation.

We again went home Saturday night and returned to the hospital the following morning, as the contractions were still constant at 4 to 5 minutes apart and 2 to 3 minutes long. My wife had made progress with the dilation of her cervix, as she was now 2 cm. We were again told the baby was doing fine and there was no medical reason to induce. We were also told that the hospital did not have enough available rooms or staff to take care of my wife if she were to be induced, so we were told to call the next morning, and if there was enough available staff and an available room, they could potentially induce the labour. My wife was given another morphine shot and we were again sent home.

The morphine did not make any difference what so ever this time and the labour and contractions continued. At this point, we were both quite disappointed and furious that we were being told there was no medical reason to induce the labour even though my wife had gone over 60 hours without eating or sleeping. Also, it was disheartening to be informed that the hospital we had put our trust in, was ill staffed and unprepared. At this point, I decided to call a neighboring hospital to request assistance. During this call, I was told not only that the neighbor hospital has available staffing and would find a room for us but that our local hospital should never have turned us away.

I communicated this development to our midwife who, in turn, delivered this news to our local hospital. Upon discovering that we were getting ready to leave for the other hospital, the local one miraculously found the available rooms and staff to assist us. Once we returned, I personally observed two other birthing rooms that were not being used.

Once my wife received an epidural and was able to sleep for 2 hours, her dilation progressed normally and did not require induction or to have her water broken. She did, however, loose over 1 liter of blood as her placenta did not, or could not, properly detach from her uterus. I personally blame this on the extended labour, which she was forced to endure as her uterus was too exhausted to properly contract, even with oxytocin injections, and I believe my viewpoint is supported by the available literature.

Once we were admitted, the nurse who was tasked with my wife’s immediate care, Lisa, was incredible and I have never met a more caring and apt individual. The obstetrician’s who removed the placenta, scraped my wife’s uterus and did what they could to control the bleeding were also pleasant.

Had I have known that seeking medical care in our town would be a similar process to buying a car, I would have put on my big boy pants and negotiated earlier on in the process and I would have contacted our neighboring hospital sooner. Coincidentally, when I purchase a new car, I contact the dealerships in other cities in order to get the best possible price and features and I was unaware I would be required to do the same for health care treatment in a first world country in a supposed tier 1 hospital. I am sorely disappointed by the lack of adequate staffing and our hospital’s inability to handle the medical situations presented to it.

Due to the above noted reasons, this is why I felt it was necessary to write this letter. My criticisms in no way reflect my attitude towards the majority of staff at this facility but I do hope the necessary changes are made to ensure no one else must experience the situation my family was put through.

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