Natalie Hill, 31, and Craig McCready, 32, took 10-day-old son Callan to their GP when he stopped feeding properly, and was breathing rapidly and being sick
A mum whose instinct that something was seriously wrong saved her baby’s life after doctors missed his heart defect is calling for oxygen tests to be introduced on maternity wards.
Natalie Hill, 31, and Craig McCready, 32, took 10-day-old son Callan to their GP when he stopped feeding properly, and was breathing rapidly and being sick. Suspecting a viral infection, their GP referred them to hospital – where a doctor said nothing was wrong. Natalie said: “When he was checked by a paediatrician, they said he was fine and to take him home.”
But trusting her motherly instinct, she went to see her GP again, who sent her back to the hospital. This time, doctors diagnosed Callan with coarctation of the aorta – where sections of the main vessel taking blood around the body are too narrow. Natalie said: “We were told to prepare for the worst as he was so unwell. We were in shock.”
The tot was put on a heart and lung bypass machine before having lifesaving surgery when he was two weeks old, using his own heart membrane to widen the valve. Callan, now thriving, is one of the one in 125 babies born every year with an undetected serious heart condition. Some 1,000 leave hospital annually with undiagnosed congenital heart disease and around 240 die.
Natalie, a primary school teacher from Paisley, Renfrewshire, is backing the campaign by children’s heart charity Tiny Tickers to put potentially lifesaving pulse oximetry machines in maternity wards. The gadgets, not part of mandatory NHS newborn health checks, detect low blood oxygen, which can indicate heart defects.
Natalie, who has also raised £1,000 with a sponsored walk, said: “It’s vital that pregnancy detection rates increase and help save lives.”
Joyce Lim, consultant cardiologist at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, added: “In some serious heart conditions, only 50% are picked up in pregnancy and we need to increase this with more training and awareness.”
For more information on Tiny Tickers, visit www.tinytickers.org.