by JARROD MAHER
On the 21st of July 2010 at 2am George Clarence Maher was born by the way of an emergency c-section. Virginia, my wife, had to be rushed to Calvary Hospital in Wagga in the middle of the night because of sudden serious bleeding.
The next 24 hours was a real rollercoaster ride – it went from being the worst to the best and back to the worst again of my life so far.
When we arrived at Wagga hospital the first concern was for my wife’s life as she was losing blood at a rapid rate. We were advised that she would have to have an emergency caesarean and the baby would be lucky to survive as it was only 27 weeks old. My wife was then wheeled off for emergency surgery. An hour later (felt like 20) I was sitting with my mother waiting for some news, pacing the corridors feeling like vomiting when a trolley with a baby on it went racing past. I was not sure if it was my baby and even if it was I was too frightened to follow just in case he/she was not alive. The nurse came and said “come and see your beautiful little baby boy, he is over a 1000 grams (apparently that is a good thing) and is doing extremely well.”
I walked in and met my son, George, for the first time. He was beautiful, little but long with good colour. I spoke with the paediatrician and obstetrician and everything was positive. They said being born at this stage he should have a 90% chance of survival. Being a bloke that likes a punt I was extremely confident that everything was going to be fine.
My mum, and family who were around came to meet George. This was a very special time for them. Now that George was looking good I focused on Virginia again as she was taking a long time to come out of theatre it was probably another hour before she came out of recovery. She was very pale and was still sedated. We wheeled her in to meet George and all she could ask was if he was ok. She loved his name and thought he sounded like a strong big boy. Virginia rubbed his leg and held his hand.
After speaking with the nurses and doctors again we decided to try and get some sleep as George would have to be transferred to a hospital in Sydney with the facilities to look after him until he would be big enough to come home. This would be happening at some stage that day. I tried to sleep on the floor next to Virginia without a great deal of success. At about 7am all our family started to arrive to meet George. Pa parked his truck out the front hoping George might get a glimpse, Poppy arrived and was impressed with how long he was, thought he might be a front rower! During this time everyone was trying to get onto Brendan my brother as he was running a camp in the Tee Wee Islands. There is no phone coverage up there so I am still unsure how he received the message. Paul and Chris (Virginia’s brothers) came up and met George as everyone knew we would be heading to Sydney so they might not see us for a while. Nat my sister came from West Wyalong with her children. I tried to tell her not to come over as it will be ok, just to come to Sydney in a week or two. Lucky she came then.
That day the Neonatal team arrived and prepared George for his first flight. This was a long process. I was walking from Virginia’s room to his all day. Most of my mates had found out and called by this time. The medical staff had warned us the first 24 hours were going to be the most critical, especially with having to move him to Sydney. The time came when George was ready to go, I was concerned about Virginia and thought she should come up a day or two later when she was a little stronger. It must be mother’s intuition and there was no way she was going to miss that flight.
I said my goodbyes to both of them as they were wheeled into the ambulance. I touched George’s leg and said, you will be fine. This was an extremely tough time saying goodbye. I do remember clearly my little niece Liv came cuddled my leg as I watched the Ambulance leave.
I then had to organise how I was going to get to Sydney and I wanted this done quickly. Lisa my sister said she would drive me so I went and said goodbye to my little girl Sadie, packed my bag and headed off. Once again this was a long period not knowing how they both had travelled. I had not had a great deal of sleep but we battled our way to RPA.
As soon as I arrived I went straight down to visit George and the Doctor gave us a run down on what was happening. Once again they said the first 24 hours are critical and because he has had to fly up here that might not help. I was still confident though. We said our goodnight to George and headed to Virginia’s room in the hospital maternity ward for another bad sleep.
The next morning I had to go and see George. As I walked into the nursery I could see a lot of people standing around George. One nurse told me to stay there the doctor would come and see me in a second. At that moment my heart broke. I knew this could not be good. The doctor came to me after about 10 minutes after and said that she would like to talk to both me and Virginia together…. This was the longest walk of my life. As I walked in Virginia knew that something was not right, the doctors explained that George had had a bleed to the brain and it was not good. We went down and were with George for the rest of the day. During this time we bathed him, said everything we could to him, cuddled him and he was baptised for the second time. Mum flew up to Sydney and arrived just after George had passed. This was a very sad time also to see your mother so upset and something no one should have to go through losing a child or grandchild. Throughout the day we had family and friends come to meet George and also say goodbye. They will always be remembered by Virgina and I for their support.
That night we were moved out of the area so we could not hear babies crying all night. We were given sleeping tablets but they didn’t really help. The next morning we were taken to Sydney airport by Ambulance with George and flown back to Wagga. Nursing him in a box on the flight home was awful. We arrived home and had to go back to the hospital where the funeral directors would pick George up.
From there we had to organise the funeral…
We feel extremely lucky to have George in our lives for only a short period of time and he tried his best to stay with us. My only wish is that he could have stayed a bit longer.
George was going to be in Sydney for up to 13 weeks (or at the very least the first six weeks of his life if he survived). I know when we flew him to Sydney I was worried about where I was going to stay, what to do with work and even paying for parking whilst there sitting beside George every day. Pillars of Strength would have given me the opportunity to get out and recharge the batteries, along with providing some of the day to day support which I can guarantee I would have required.
In 2011 a couple of weeks after George’s first anniversary, I had the opportunity to meet with Gary Sillett who was in the process of setting up “Pillars of Strength”. Upon meeting Gary our stories of our little boys Isaac and George were nearly exactly the same except George was born in Wagga and Isaac in Sydney. An organisation like this would have been most beneficial to me when we had George and I believe Pillars of Strength will be most beneficial to other dads and families from regional areas. Since that meeting I have been directly involved with PoS so that we could establish a regional program to provide support to regional dads that I didn’t have.
Pillars of Strength deals with issues in men’s health and the mental health sector by providing respite and support for men going through significant family trauma. Visit their site here, follow them on facebook here, follow them on twitter here
Jarrod is bereaved father of two living in Wagga Wagga with his wife Virginia and his beautiful 3 year old daughter Sadie, who they thank their lucky stars for every day. He works as a construction project manager and his interests include all sports. He and his brother, Brendan have been instrumental in helping build Pillars of Strength and they are holding the inaugural George Maher and Hamish Howard Remembrance Golf Day in Wagga on November 16. All proceeds from the day are going to Pillars of Strength in hospital program to support regional dads (and their families) when their babies are hospitalised.
Mia Freedman & Rebecca Sparrow are compiling a book for parents who have experienced the loss of a baby, filled with words from other parents who have been through it. You can contribute to that by leaving a comment here
All proceeds from this book will go towards charities including Heartfelt, The Stillbirth Foundation and The Humpty Dumpty Association.