‘We were expecting a normal baby, but life did not turn out that way’

Nicola Preston and Matt Ferneyhough with son Jack Ferneyhough, 2, who has cerebral palsy.
Nicola Preston and Matt Ferneyhough with son Jack Ferneyhough, 2, who has cerebral palsy.
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When a pregnancy and scans have gone smoothly every mum expects to give birth to a healthy baby.

Aasma DAY talks to one mum about how family life was turned upside down after a traumatic birth led to her son being born with cerebral palsy.

When Nicola Preston became pregnant with her second child, she and her partner Matt Ferneyhough were looking forward to welcoming a new baby into their lives.

Although the pregnancy was perfectly normal and healthy, there were issues during the birth which led to their son Jack being born with life threatening problems.

Nicola, who lives with Matt, in Leyland, and also has a daughter Katie, 10, explains: “I was overdue by about 10 days and went into hospital to be induced.

“Unfortunately, what followed was a catalogue of disasters.

“Jack was in distress but it was not picked up for hours.

“I was not fully contracting even though the graph showed I was having contractions. As a result, they did not treat it as serious labour.

“The same thing happened with my first pregnancy and I had to have an emergency Caesarean Section. But the hospital had lost all the notes about this.

“Jack was eventually born by emergency Caesarean Section after hours of being in distress during labour.

“He was born on October 18, 2011 weighing 7lb 10oz and was basically pretty much dead when he was born.

“He had no heartbeat and wasn’t breathing.”

Nicola and Matt later discovered that Jack had been born with kidney failure at birth and one of his lungs had collapsed.

Nicola had been given a general anaesthetic for the Caesarean and when she came around a couple of hours later, she wanted to know where her baby was.

Nicola, who works for the accounts department at Barton Grange, recalls: “The doctors told me that the birth had gone very badly and that Jack was in a critical condition and they were not expecting him to make it through the night.

“They asked us if we wanted the chaplain to come and see him and if any family members wanted to come and say their goodbyes.

“After that, they explained that if there was to be any chance of survival for Jack, he had to go for immediate brain cooling treatment.

“Jack was taken to the nearest neonatal unit at the time with the treatment which was Arrowe Park on the Wirral.”

Jack underwent 72 hours of brain cooling and was fully ventilated. Once Nicola was discharged from hospital, she and Matt went to stay at the Ronald McDonald House accommodation to be with Jack.

After two weeks, he was taken off the ventilator and transferred back to Preston and when he was five-and-a-half weeks old, Jack went home.

Nicola says: “While Jack was in hospital, he was having lots of abnormal movements and spasms which were all signs that there had been damage to his brain caused by lack of oxygen.

“We are taking action against the hospital for what happened during the birth and the case is ongoing.

“Since we got Jack home, it has been a case of waiting to see how brain damaged he is.

“What we know today is that we have a very severely disabled little boy.

“Jack has cerebral palsy, mild to moderate hearing loss and some problems with his vision. He cannot swallow so is fed by an electric tube through his stomach.

“Although Jack is two-and-a-half, he can’t walk, stand, sit, crawl or even roll over and has no head control.

“If you left him, he would just be on his back on the floor all the time.

“Jack has no co-ordination and can reach for things, but not get hold of them.

“He can’t talk, but he can make noises.

“But despite all these issues, Jack is a really happy little boy and he smiles and laughs a lot.

“He loves watching Mr Tumble and it has him in hysterics.”

Nicola admits that when they were first told Jack had cerebral palsy, she found it very daunting.

She says: “It is not what you expect after you have been through nine months of pregnancy.

“You just presume you are going to get a healthy baby at the end of it.

“From a purely selfish point of view, you feel cheated.

“You just want to do all the normal things like walking to the park with them when they are toddlers.

“But as Jack also suffers from severe reflux and is very sick, we do not often leave the house.

“Our lives have been irreparably turned upside down and every day brings a new problem, a new fight.

“Things have changed and to us, he is just Jack and this has become our normality.

“You carry on with things in life, but you still carry this underlying sadness as all your hopes for your child’s future have gone.

“However, Jack does bring us so much joy too and you live for the special moments such as the first time he smiled. He has become a gift.

“We want to eradicate the stigma you encounter as a family when you enter the ‘special’ world totally unexpectedly.

“Something like this could happen to anyone. We were expecting a normal little baby but life did not turn out that way.

“We would like people to have more understanding of families affected by cerebral palsy or something similar.

“We would so much rather people came and asked us questions about Jack than stared or recoiled or pulled their children away from them.”