HG Heroes - Dr Tony Nicoll
Dr Tony Nicoll of Dundee, Scotland, is my medical HG hero! He is an extraordinary person and I am delighted that he recently won a gold award in the ‘Outstanding Individual (Non-Clinical)’ category of the NHS Tayside Staff Appreciation and Recognition (STAR) Awards. I struggle to imagine that there could possibly be a more deserving winner.
Dr Nicoll always goes above and beyond to ensure that every patient under his care is thoroughly looked after. He is an expert in the treatment of HG (hyperemesis gravidarum) – amongst many other things! - and in applying his knowledge he is consistently calm, warm, sympathetic, trustworthy and reassuring. He truly wants to help hyperemesis sufferers suffer less, and is genuinely concerned for his patients’ physical and emotional well-being.
Without Dr Nicoll’s unfaltering care I am not sure how I would have survived my second pregnancy!
My First Pregnancy
In 2009 I was pregnant with my first baby and suffering severely with HG. In spite of being completely bed bound with no quality of life and unable to even turn my head or talk without being sick for months on end I was repeatedly told by several medical professionals that my sickness was ‘normal’. Not one of them checked my urine for ketones or suggested rehydration via IV fluids during the first few months, and the battle at any point for effective medication was pointless and distressing.
Over and over again I was made to feel guilty for considering any medication during pregnancy – of course I didn’t WANT to have to take medication, but having your body in starvation mode and being unable to do anything but lie still in a dark room battling non-stop intense nausea/vomiting during pregnancy is also not healthy - for you or your baby!
Those dark months were utter hell, both physically and mentally. I knew no better so had to accept what I was told and battle on through the torture of 24/7 relentless sickness month after month. All day every day I would just countdown to when I was asleep as it was the only time I could escape the sickness. The fact that this is SUPPOSED to be one of a woman’s happiest times of her life makes HG all the harder to deal with, and when most people dismiss your symptoms as ‘morning sickness’, suggesting traditional (and useless!) remedies such as ginger, and crackers, etc. this makes things impossibly worse. It is NOT ‘acute morning sickness’! I was SO thirsty, and SO hungry - ALL THE TIME - and yet couldn’t drink or eat a thing, not even water, without throwing up. Even though I wasn’t keeping anything down I would still dry wretch or throw up bile. With no relief at any point. It was horrific.
Duchess of Cambridge
Three years later, when the Duchess of Cambridge fell pregnant for the first time, there were a few intense days when I did many interviews about HG for newspapers and radio stations and, crucially, the volunteer work I do with Pregnancy Sickness Support was also featured on STV news. It was watching this news article on the TV that helped me realise who I needed to speak to for decent care if I was to face being pregnant again to give Joseph, my first born, a sibling. My now hero, Dr Tony Nicoll, was featured in the same article giving the medical expert information and was clearly very ‘HG friendly’! I am not sure my little three year old Theo would be here today if it wasn’t for discovering this amazing doctor.
My Second Pregnancy
Seven months after this, I was pregnant for the second time, and the experience could not have been any more different to the first.
Undoubtedly I was much more knowledgeable myself which helped, but crucially I had the life-saving volunteers at Pregnancy Sickness Support and the remarkable care of Dr Nicoll on my side this time! I should say AT my side, as they – and he - were there every step of the way.
It was still a horrendous pregnancy but I got the best possible medical care and thanks to Dr Nicoll and P.S.S. (Pregnancy Sickness Support) I felt significantly less isolated, scared and miserable, and much more believed and understood.
Most vitally, Dr Nicoll treated my hyperemesis properly with IV fluids and medication from the beginning and therefore minimised the length and intensity of sickness as much as was possible. He is intelligent and experienced, and was always able to clearly explain everything to me at every stage.
From my pre-pregnancy planning appointments with Dr Nicoll, I could tell he took hyperemesis seriously and didn’t just shrug it off as ‘morning sickness’. I had taken along a great HG medical protocol written by the brilliant Dr Marjory McLean (another Scottish HG medical hero!) to my pre-pregnancy appointment as I was prepared that the mention of medication just might be shrugged off again - but this was absolutely not the case. Dr Nicoll knows how to treat HG and it is not with crackers or ginger biscuits!!!
I was terrified and devastated at the thought of being pregnant and having HG again, especially as it would mean I wouldn’t be able to be a proper mum to my son Joseph for so many months, but Dr Nicoll alleviated a lot of my fears.
Once the hyperemesis struck he had it arranged that I could go into Ninewells hospital as a day patient for two bags of IV fluid whenever required - and directly, without going through a GP, and there was never a battle for the medication I needed.
We had a sensible step by step plan set out before pregnancy - and in writing - so I wasn’t left in doubt as to whether I would get the care Dr Nicoll had approved if he happened not to be at the hospital when I needed treatment.
During my pregnancy he also arranged for extra reassurance scans which were obviously comforting but also provided some much needed, encouraging, positive moments in amidst the torturous sickness!
He made the hell of HG so much more bearable in so many ways. To know that you will be taken seriously and treated properly makes such a difference, especially at a time when you are extremely weak and vulnerable. I know, as a P.S.S. volunteer who has supported others under Dr Nicoll's care, that he has been exceptional with all of them too. The difference in these ladies, both physically and emotionally, once they are under Tony’s care, is indescribable.
In nominating Dr Nicoll for a STAR award I came to learn that not only is he exceptional at treating hyperemesis gravidarum, he is just simply truly exceptional - in all his fields of work.
Everyone I have spoken to about him seems to have heard of him and also speak about him in a super hero sort of way!
Unfortunately great care for hyperemesis is rare, but Dr Nicoll sets the perfect example to others of how to treat those suffering with the condition – with seriousness, compassion, understanding and care. I really hope Dr Nicoll realises what an impact he has had on my, and my family’s life. He is so gracious and modest that I’m not sure he will! Even more so, I hope that other doctors follow his outstanding example.
My Other HG Heroes...
This post was primarily to highlight Dr Nicoll’s amazing work, but, with deep emotion, I must also mention a few more heroes…
My family (I am so grateful for you) and also friends (all of you who helped and most especially the extreme kindness and compassion from Monika, Ruth and Alexis) who did so much.
Then there is Caitlin Dean, who runs Pregnancy Sickness Support… an absolute SUPERHERO! Without Caitlin I am almost certain that I would never have been able to face going through a second pregnancy, and my little Theo would not be here. I wish I had your intelligence and eloquence to put into words how grateful I and the world of hyperemesis sufferers are for your tireless efforts. You are truly unique.
Also, another amaaaaaazing hero - Lyle Brooks in New York, who runs Beyond Morning Sickness. Once again, I am lost for words as how to describe your caring, hardworking and generous nature, and how grateful the hyperemesis world is for you.
The amazing Kimber Wakefield MacGibbon who founded the HER Foundation in America as without her website (http://www.hyperemesis.org/) I don’t know how I would have gotten through my first pregnancy
Lastly, I am sending a huge thank you to all of the Pregnancy Sickness Support volunteers and also previous sufferers from right around the world who supported me through that second pregnancy. There were so many of you bombarding me with messages of support and I will never forget you doing that! It meant, and means, so much. Thank you, all of you HG heroes, from me and my little HG survivors, Joseph and Theo.
"Being able to provide pregnancy care for women and their families is something that I am very proud of and I feel very lucky to be able to be a part of so many life changing moments.
I aim to continue to provide high quality care to women in Tayside and I will do my best to ensure that every pregnant woman that I look after has the best experience possible." - Dr Tony Nicoll
-Dr Tony Nicoll was nominated as an HG Hero by Heather Miranda
- To raise money for Pregnancy Sickness Support Heather's son Joseph will be busking on his violin and electric piano in Dundee over the summer. You can support Joseph by following this link and donating what you can http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Joseph_PSS
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In conjunction with Pregnancy Sickness Support and Plymouth University I am looking for women who have been treated for HG in the last 2 years in the UK to take part in a research survey. Please click here to find out more.
I am mother of three beautiful children and wife to a fantastic and supportive husband. I am a nurse, a farmer and a trustee for Pregnancy Sickness Support. I love working hard and spending time with my kids.
About this blog
Information and support for pregnancy sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum. Views are my own and do not represent those of any other organisation. Information provided here should not be a substitute for medical advice. My aim is to raise awareness and encourage sufferers to know they are not alone.
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