real life

An emergency drug that could save a woman and her pregnancy is not readily available.

I am hoping my story can raise awareness.

I’m eight weeks pregnant.

I had a blood test last week and everything was fine, except I didn’t have the immunity to chicken pox. My GP specifically told me to be careful as there would be a lot of complications for myself and the baby if I contract chicken pox.

I was also advised that I am not able to get the immunisation now due to my pregnancy.

Of course, as the universe would have it, a few days after my GP visit, my friend messaged me and told me her son has just been diagnosed with chicken pox. She was only warning me as my daughter might contract the virus, she had no idea that I am also at risk with my pregnancy.

Her son was over at my place on Saturday night and we had close skin-to-skin contact as we were wrestling, playing, cuddling, etc. He was diagnosed the following Monday, meaning he was contagious when he was at my place.

"I was also advised that I am not able to get the immunisation now due to my pregnancy." Image via iStock.

I called Health Direct as soon as I found out and they advised that I can get an injection of an antiviral drug, called Varicella Zoster Immune Globulin (VZIG) which will decrease the chances of me catching chicken pox.

The problem is that this drug is most effective when injected within 72 hours after contact with the infected person. I was advised to go to hospital emergency as I was pushing 48 hours  and all the GPs were closed due to the Monday public holiday.

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I presented to Ryde Hospital and spoke to the triage nurse. I told the nurse my situation and she did all the routine checks (blood pressure, body temp etc). The nurse then spoke to a doctor about the VZIG and I was advised that they do not have the drug readily available at the hospital as it is not classified as emergency medication. The nurse suggested I present to my GP the next day.

I left feeling more anxious than ever knowing that I was pushing the time frame.

Read more: This is what it’s like when your baby has whooping cough.

I presented to my GP the next day. After much consultation with her fellow doctors, it was established that they also did not stock VZIG. My GP called the pharmacy who also stated that they did not have it. For them to order it, it would arrive outside of the time frame I was on.

My GP advised me to present to Emergency at either Westmead or Royal North Shore as they are the bigger and more resourced ones. Not wanting to wait, I decided to call the hospitals.

I contacted Westmead first and was advised that they did not have VZIG.

I then contacted Royal North Shore, the nurse spoke to a doctor and then advised me that they do not have it readily available but will be able to access it that night when I present. The nurse was really helpful and reassured me that everything would be okay and to not stress.

"I left feeling more anxious than ever knowing that I was pushing the time frame." Image via iStock.
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By this time, I was pushing 72 hours, and was over the run around (and of course the hormones were playing up). I was in tears on the phone. As I was getting ready to attend the hospital, a specialist doctor called me and advised me they are already in the process of obtaining the VZIG for me. The doctor took down all my details, including my medical history, and reassured me that the VZIG would be there when I arrived.

Those words were music to my ears.

As soon as I arrived at RNS the emergency was packed with people. The anxiety kicked in again as I was already up to 72 hours and I knew my case would not be a priority compared to all the children and elderly in wheelchairs who filled the room. I was triaged and was told to wait. Within 25 minutes, I was called up and taken to a “fast tracked” room and the doctor I spoke to on the phone came to see me.

He went into detail what the risks are if I contract chicken pox, and he explained to me what VZIG does and what the risks are. He advised that he consulted with the on call Infectious Disease Specialist and he agreed that I needed VZIG. I was then taken into a room by a nurse and given two injections of VZIG.

I cannot put into words how helpful, supportive, and organised RNS Hospital was. Every staff member that I spoke to from the nurses, to a volunteer, doctors, were professional and patient with me. Extra credit to the Dr Anthony Joseph who looked after me from my first phone call till I walked out of RNS. Everything was organised by the time I arrived.

I do not understand why a drug like VZIG was so difficult to find when research states it has to be taken within 72 hours of exposure to a person with chicken pox. As a pregnant woman who was given the run around, it was an extremely stressful string of events. I am forever grateful that RNS came to the rescue and I had nothing by excellent service.

The reader who submitted this post requested to remain anonymous as she hasn't reached the 12th week of her pregnancy yet.

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