'If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here now'


Rhian Waller

In modern Britain, birth is no longer the risky business it once was, but mothers can still face life-threatening situations.

To mark World Blood Donor Day, which falls on June 14, the Leader spoke to three women whose lives were changed by timely blood transfusions, including one woman who credits the measure with saving her life.

Among them is Chelsea Lawson-Swatton, 23, of Connah’s Quay, a mother of three.

She said: “I first became pregnant at 17. I wasn't expecting any complications, but I ended up being in labour for three days. Amelia got really distressed so I was taken for an emergency C-section.

“After she was born I’d bled so much I nearly collapsed. They had to give me two pints of blood.”

Suffering serious blood loss, Chelsea became very poorly.

She said: “My blood was quite low. I was actually on my own when I was told I would need a transfusion. They put the line in and I saw the blood going down the tube.

“I was really scared to begin with, because this was someone else’s blood. It wasn’t mine, wan’t part of my body.

“But before I had it I was folded over with pain, I couldn’t breathe and I’d gone grey.”

Within an hour of the transfusion, Chelsea was on her way to recovery, her colour returned and she felt healthier.

She said: “I have an unusual blood type, A+, so I was lucky. At first it was a strange experience, but then I began to feel grateful to whoever it was who had given the blood.

“I’d give blood now if I could, but I can’t because of the transfusion. I’ve encouraged my husband to give blood, and my granddad gave for a long time.”

Helen Payton-Jones, 39, of Shotton, was pregnant with twins Daniel and Alexander when things went wrong.

She said: “I was fine during the pregnancy – which was the first free IFV pregnancy in Wales. I had a caesarean in Glan Clwyd hospital, but an infection set in.

“The twins were born at 32 weeks, and I went home. I became very ill. I had a massive fit in front of my husband and I was rushed to the Countess Hospital in Chester.

“The last thing I remember was being wheeled into the resus room and thinking: ‘This isn’t good’.”

Helen was soon fighting for her life.

Her blood pressure dropped to a critically low 37 over 11, and she was, at one point, clinically dead.

She said: “My blood pressure was so low the doctors didn’t know if it had dropped below what the machine could register. That level isn’t considered recoverable.

“I don’t know how long I ‘died’ for, but I was in resus for seven and a half hours and then in hospital for days, away from my babies.”

Eventually, Helen pulled through, partly thanks to donated blood.

She said: “I was given four pints of ‘whole’ blood, and also a gel infusion, plasma and platelets. So it wasn’t just the kind of blood that’s taken straight from donors – I’m not even sure how much plasma I received.

“So I probably received blood from more than five people.”

Despite the trauma, Helen considers herself lucky on a number of counts.

She said: “I’m lucky I had the fit in front of my husband, because if I’d been in bed alone the ambulance might have been too late.

“I’m also very, very grateful to the people who donated, because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here now and Daniel and Alexander wouldn’t have a mother.”

She still finds it difficult to discuss.

She said: “It’s only recently I’ve been able to talk about it. I’ve had flashbacks and my health isn’t good now. It’s only now I’m coming to terms with it.

“The strangest thing was that, when I finally got home and turned the TV on, the first thing we saw was an advert for blood donation.

“My mother donated blood for years and years. Nobody in the family needed it up till me, and then I really needed it.

“I’d say that, if you’ve got your health and half an hour to give then do it. You never know if it might be you or your nearest who needs help next.”

Blood transfusions are not always given in such dramatic circumstances.

For Pam Campbell, 44, of Connah’s Quay, a transfusion gave her the energy to bond with her baby during the first, vital few days after birth.

She said: “I had my middle child Louise in 1998. I lost a lot of blood during labour as she was a big baby, and afterwards I felt really lethargic.

“They checked my blood pressure and it was very, very low, so I was kept in hospital another two days.

“I was so tired the nurses had to help me all the time. They’d put her in the bed next to me. I put it down to being tired after the birth, but even afterwards I simply didn’t have any energy.”

The fatigue was so bad that Pam struggled to lift her baby girl and had to allow staff to place her in the cot.

She said: “It was things you’d take for granted.

“If I hadn’t had a transfusion, I don’t know what would have happened. Perhaps I’d have been so tired for so long that it would have affected my bonding with Louise.

“But I felt very different afterwards. Louise is 15 now, and has another little sister, so it didn’t put me off!”

l To give blood in Wrexham, visit www.blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 23 23 to find your nearest blood donation session.

See full story in the Leader

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