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I was allowed final 12 precious hours with my baby. God help people in future.

Byline: Mike Morgan

A grieving mum believes a radical healthcare shake-up would have cost her the 12 precious hours she spent with her dying son.

Sarah Ford's baby son Jake was stillborn at Stockton's University Hospital of North Tees in January.

But skilled staff there managed to revive baby Jake sufficiently for him to be put on a ventilator in the special care baby unit.

This gave Sarah, 21, of Redbrook Avenue, Roseworth, and fiance Barry Osborne 12 precious hours with their first born child.

Hours they say which can never be replaced.

However, under the controversial Darzi proposals for major changes in the Teesside hospital network, the consultant-led maternity services - including the special care baby unit - will move from North Tees to Hartlepool.

This means only low-risk pregnancies will be able to go to the Stockton hospital. If there are unexpected complications mums and babies could have to be transferred to Hartlepool - a 30 minute drive away.

Sarah said she is extremely thankful to North Tees staff who gave her time with her son she believes would have been impossible under the proposed new system.

She said: "If this had happened to me after the unit is moved, no-one would have had any reason to send me to Hartlepool as I was low risk, but where would Jake have gone then? This decision is absolutely disgusting. It could mean the difference between life and death in a case like mine.

"These people just do not realise what they are doing. God help people if they are in my situation in future."

Sarah was admitted to North Tees on January 12. She says her pregnancy and - apparently - the birth seemed to go smoothly.

Consequently, she was admitted to North Tees' midwife-led unit.

Her labour lasted six hours and she gave birth to Jake at 6.40am on January 13. Tests later showed Jake had suffered from lack of oxygen during birth, having had the cord round his neck.

Sarah said: "Doctors and midwives worked to bring him back and after 20 minutes, he had a heart beat. But he still wasn't breathing and had to be put on a ventilator. Doctors carried out everything possible, but unfortunately, at 5pm, there was nothing more they could do and the ventilator was turned off.

"My baby may not have survived, but they gave me 12 hours with him which I will cherish for the rest of my life. Those 12 hours are something we may not have got if the unit was at Hartlepool.

"North Tees by car is five minutes, but Hartlepool is up to half an hour.

"Some people who live in East Cleveland would take much longer.

"This is a step backwards not forwards. It's worse, much worse."

A spokeswoman for County Durham and Tees Valley Strategic Health Authority, which meets today to make a decision on the Darzi report, said: "We offer our sympathy to Sarah over the loss of Jake. However, we cannot comment on the individual circumstances relating to his death, but would stress that NHS staff will take the appropriate action pending on the circumstances at the time."
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Title Annotation:News Local
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Feb 22, 2006
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