30 March 2022
Mum-to-be, Geeta Roath, from Southampton contracted coronavirus at 30 weeks pregnant. After struggling to breathe, she was admitted to Southampton’s General Intensive Care Unit, and her baby was delivered via emergency surgery.
“I’d had multiple miscarriages previously, so when my husband, Michael, and I found out I was pregnant, I chose not to have the Covid-19 vaccine in case of any potential harm to my baby.
I stayed at home for the duration of my pregnancy, only really going out to walk our dog.
Then in November 2021, I contracted coronavirus. It felt like someone was hugging my chest so I couldn’t breathe normally. I kept saying to myself that I was ok. That I just had to hold on for 10 days.
It got worse so I rung 111 and went to the Emergency Department in Southampton. I was given an ECG and steroids to help with my lungs, before being sent home.
Two days later it got really bad. I wasn’t eating, I had a high temperature, and I was really worried about the baby.
My sister urged me to ring for an ambulance and go back to hospital.
My oxygen levels read 92 which was cause for concern for the baby, so I saw the midwives at Princess Anne Hospital. I could only walk a few steps before needing to stop and take a deep breath. It looked like I was in labour.
Because I was Covid+, the midwives wore full PPE around me, and it was very overwhelming.
They took me into a delivery suite and did hourly observations. I stayed there for about 48 hours, but my health continued to deteriorate.
My oxygen levels had dropped to 83 despite steroid injections, my temperature and heart rate was too high. By now, I couldn’t stand up anymore due to the impact on my chest.
Then I was told that if things didn’t improve, they may need to perform an emergency c-section.
My world came crashing down. I’m not familiar with anyone having babies at 30 weeks, so I was terrified for him.
That night I was transferred to the General Intensive Care Unit by ambulance.
As I entered the ward you could hear a pin drop, it was so quiet. I’d never seen people in induced comas before.
They took me into a private room and hooked me up to ECG machine, I was given more oxygen, and a machine to pulsate my legs.
The staff are remarkable. They made me feel like I wasn’t alone. My nurse made me feel like everything in ICU was normal. That there was nothing to worry about, or that if things were bad, they had right the people to help me.
Being in an induced coma was my fear, but I felt calm and collected knowing I was in the right place if it needed to happen.
People don’t realise how bad coronavirus can be unless you experience it first-hand. I am only 35, so found it so restricting as my normal day to day activities were completely limited.
On the fourth morning I was given a CPAP machine to use. The nurse made it sound so normal, and showed a lady next door to me with one.
This was the step before being put on a ventilator, and the mask covers your whole face. It felt like my whole face was being sucked in and out!
As I was pregnant, I needed more oxygen than normal, and so it was easier for my lungs to heal, they wanted me to lean on my tummy or side.
During the whole ICU stay, the midwives came to see me. They would hold the probe to my tummy for half an hour – that is how much support I got.
The whole NHS care system, it is one step down from God. The support is unbelievable.
I knew my health was still deteriorating. It felt like everything was going wrong.
On 24 November they decided the baby needed to come out as he was compressing my lungs. My world stopped. I was exhausted, and so worried for him.
The staff were very reassuring and told me they had helped babies survive at 22 weeks. I was 30 weeks and five days by that point.
The theatre was booked for 6.00pm that night, and I started panicking.
A doctor asked if I had seen any of my family. When I said no, they rushed to get my husband in before surgery, and I felt relief.
I think even for him, he didn’t realise how bad I was until he came into the ICU. He walked with me along the corridors towards theatre.”
Michael adds, “I was walking away from Geeta not knowing if my wife and my baby would be ok. It was the hardest walk of my life.”
Geeta continues, “As I went into theatre I was surrounded by the maternity team and my ICU nurse. They never let go of my hand. I had so many people holding onto me.
I said to myself, if I don’t wake up, I have tried. I can hear my baby’s heartbeat, but if I don’t make it, he will ok.
When they were giving me the anaesthetic, I felt so at peace with myself.
Then my baby, Michael Junior, was delivered.
He was kept in theatre until I was stitched up and ready to leave too. The Neonatal team said he needed CPAP for a while, and had pneumothorax respiratory distress, so he had to fight at the start of his life.
I was then transferred back to General ICU, and Michael Junior was transferred to the Neonatal ICU.
When I woke up, one of the nurses came over to me and said ‘congratulations you are a mum’. I could have cried for days!
At that point, I turned my phone on and there was a picture of a baby with a little ventilator and hat. They had mimicked the womb for the photo, with my baby in the centre.
My recovery was very quick after Michael Junior was born.
I was given coronavirus antibodies and plenty of electrolyte drinks. I stayed in ICU for a few days before being moved to the high dependency unit for two days, then a covid ward for five days.
I only physically saw my baby after 13 days. I almost felt like I’d lost another baby as I still hadn’t seen him or felt him. Thankfully my husband saw him every day and could pass on photos and progress reports.
I’m cherishing days more now after my experience, as the fight for life is something else when you have other people fighting for you.
Thankfully mine was a successful journey with my baby. But without the incredible midwives and teams in the ICU, I wouldn’t be here, and maybe Michael Junior wouldn’t be too.
My nan died in the old General ICU, and I feel very lucky to have treatment in the new build. In the evenings they played some relaxing music and had mood lighting around the rooms.
It is clean and spacious, and you can maintain your privacy while still watching what is going on around you.
It really helps you to trust the staff when you have the environment to match their amazing care.
Discover more incredible stories like this in our latest newsletter
It has everything that has been happening in the Charity over the last four months including:
- Launch of our research project appeal
- Why we are focussing on palliative care in intensive care
- How the Charity impacting the hospital
- What we are doing to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee
- And much more…