HG Hero's - Dr Deborah Wignal and Brendan Cronin
It's long passed due for another HG Hero post to recognise all those people, doctors, midwives, partners, employers, parents and friends who go above and beyond to help hyperemesis sufferers suffer a little less. These people set an example to others of how a little bit of compassion, understanding and care goes such a long way for people feeling isolated, scared and misunderstood. Many HG Heroes claim they have done nothing extraordinary or remarkable and have simply done as they would always do. What they don’t' realise is that although their care isn't entirely unique, it is sadly rare – although hopefully not for much longer. By highlighting their achievements I hope it will normalise it and make poorer treatment and ignorant care less acceptable.
Victoria Cronin has been through two hyperemesis pregnancies and wrote to tell me about the exceptional care she received from her GP, Dr Wignell at Windrush Surgery in Banbury. The treatment she received from Dr Wignell meant that her second pregnancy, although still a struggle was significantly better than the first.
“After seeing a number of different doctors at the practice during my first pregnancy, it was not until I got an appointment with Dr Wignell that my hyperemesis was taken seriously. Having nothing to compare with, I accepted what I was told by medics and midwives that sickness was normal during pregnancy. Despite being terribly ill, not one of them checked my ketones or appeared to believe the amount I was vomiting and little I was able to eat and drink.” Victoria tells me.
When Victoria eventually saw Dr Wignell she consulted a colleague at the hospital for guidance on treatment and then started medications which made a huge difference. “She did not make me feel guilty for taking medication and believed me that I was seriously ill. Proper control via medication swiftly got the sickness under control, and I was very fortunate to be much better by 25 weeks.” Says Victoria
But it was during Victoria's second pregnancy that Dr Wignell's care really made the biggest difference. “I was understandably very anxious about planning another pregnancy with a risk of the recurrence of hyperemesis. Before the pregnancy I met with Dr Wignell, and she patiently let me fire questions at her and put a plan in place to ensure that should I get hyperemesis gravidarum again that I'd get the effective medications earlier, and that my illness be taken seriously. She ensured that there was a proper record in my notes should I not be able to get an appointment with her so that her GP colleagues would prescribe what I needed. She also arranged for me to have a pre-pregnancy meeting with a consultant at the hospital who put an hyperemesis management plan in place for me.”
“Dr Wignell made sure I some of the medications in advance so that I could take them as soon as I started to feel even mild nausea, pre-emptively. Once I fell pregnant, and the sickness started again with a vengeance, I was given the medications that worked best for me with no battle at all, and I was also able to easily get hold of it on a repeat prescription without having to return to the surgery.”
So many women report difficulty in getting ongoing supply of essential medications. Often they are met with prejudice and criticism from receptionist and pharmacists about taking medication in pregnancy, or when a usual GP is off a colleague will alter treatments or refuse to prescribe repeats.
Victoria tells me about how this extra care she received made such a difference for her “I doubt Dr Wignell realises what an impact she had on my life and my family's life, by supporting me though the illness and such a better level of management during my second pregnancy. It made life so much more bearable, which was crucial having a toddler to look after too. Going to bed for the day was not an option this time, but the fantastic standard of care she gave me meant the hyperemesis was under control from the outset and much less severe than the first time I suffered from it. Her support before the pregnancy gave me confidence and allayed much of the anxiety I had about becoming pregnant again. Although I don't think I have the courage to go through another pregnancy feeling so poorly, Dr Wignell's support and level of care was amazing, and I'd like to thank her very much.”
On behalf of hyperemesis sufferers around the world I would like to join Victoria in thanking Dr Wignell. She is setting an example of care and compassion which one day will be the norm. I hope she feel proud reading this as she should... Victoria's baby is here thanks to you Dr Wignell.
Victoria also wanted to take this opportunity to thank her husband. Surviving hyperemesis is rarely a matter of just getting medication and a good doctor, although they massively help. In reality none of the current treatments available are actually cures for hyperemesis gravidarum and support is therefore vital to making it through with your life, your baby and your sanity. A great doctor is worth their weight in gold but second only to a supportive partner, whether that's a husband, wife, mother, sister, best friend or any other significant other.
Victoria tells me “I'd also like to thank my darling husband who has cared for me throughout two hyperemesis pregnancies now. The sickness came as a shock to both of us, as we just weren't expecting pregnancy to be that awful! I had to spend months in bed and hovered over the toilet, during which time Brendan took over all the household work, cooking and cleaning as well as his full time job. My being completely housebound for so long obviously completely effected our lifestyle, and it significantly impacted his quality of life as much as mine. But he was my unfaltering rock throughout it all. He brought me whatever I needed when I needed it and was always supportive and encouraging, helping to keep me motivated and focused on the end result. He managed to keep me positive, even when I felt like death. He accompanied me and supported me at all medical appointments. We got through it together. And now we have two wonderful children. Hyperemesis was hell, but Brendan made it bearable.”
Brendan also sets an example to other dads out there with his ongoing fundraising
“Because I got a huge amount of advice and guidance from the Pregnancy Sickness Support charity we wanted to do something to give something back to the charity for all their help. So last summer, Brendan competed in the Stowe Triathlon (on the hottest day of the year!) and raised a large sum thanks to sponsorship from family, friends and colleagues, in aid of PSS. I'm very proud of my husband and want to thank him very much. I couldn't have got through it without him, he is my Hero.” Says Victoria.
What a great man, worthy of Hero status in the eyes of hyperemesis gravidarum suffers around the globe.
Brendan Cronin setting a great example to all the HG dad survivors by raising money for Pregnancy Sickness Support in a triathlon
You can now download an HG Hero certificate to give to your own Heroes who have helped you through your pregnancy. Don't forget to give them to your GP or Midwife if they were great and let them know how they made a difference... encouraging them with a positive message of thanks and gratitude will soon spread amongst their colleagues and encourage them to want to do the best for their patients.