A MUM has told of her heartbreaking decision to switch off her baby girl's life support machine – only to watch her start breathing on her own moments later.
Little Ambika was 'blue' when she was born after her mum displayed signs of sepsis while she was pregnant.
The tot had to be resuscitated minutes after she was delivered before being rushed off for cooling treatment and to be placed on a ventilator.
First time parents Manisha, 27, and Pyush Anand, 28, were left with little choice but to decide to switch off Ambika’s life support machine, after advice from "top medics".
They claim doctors told them Ambika's brain scans were "the worst they had ever seen" and she would be in a "complete vegetative state" if she survived – which would be "unfair".
And Manisha says that the doctors didn't seem to want to give little Ambika a chance and left her feeling guilty if she didn't switch off the life support.
The night before the ventilator was due to be switched off, Ambika's devastated parents were given time to say "goodbye" to their baby and sobbed as they talked about planning a funeral.
However, at 2am, Pyush burst into Manisha's hospital room to say Ambika was breathing on her own and had been for half an hour, which the mum thought was 'a dream' at first.
Seeing their baby breathing unaided for the first time was like "witnessing a miracle" for Manisha and Pyush who were able to take Ambika home a month later.
While the 22-month-old tot has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy that limits her mobility and development, Ambika is a happy little girl defying all the doctors' expectations.
Former finance adviser Manisha, of Stretford, Greater Manchester, said: "We had a meeting with the doctors and they told us we needed to think about switching her life support off.
"I was a wreck. I couldn't cry, I couldn't really speak. I just couldn't register what was going on.
"We had the top doctor telling us that Ambika's brain scans were the worst they had ever seen. Her head was huge and the swelling was pushing her brain into her spine.
"The doctor told us Ambika wouldn't survive and if she miraculously did survive she would be in a complete vegetative state which would be unfair.
The doctor told us Ambika wouldn't survive and if she miraculously did survive she would be in a complete vegetative state which would be unfair
"They explained that they couldn't tell us to switch it off but hearing everything they said made me feel so guilty.
"I know they can't give you false hope but when I think about it now it seems ridiculous. They hadn't even given her a chance. It's crazy.
"We came out of that meeting and all spoke about it as a family and decided we would switch it off. It was horrific.
"We started talking about her funeral. It was the worst conversation we've ever had to have.
"Everyone was crying and Pyush kept saying 'but I've done her room, we can't go back to an empty room'.
"Seeing him like that was when I fully broke down for the first time because he had been the backbone keeping us all strong. That was when it all really hit me.
"Family time with Ambika that night was horrible. There are no words to explain how it feels to say goodbye to your child when they've only been in this world a few weeks.
"I had to go back to my room because I couldn't cope being around anyone. Then my husband came in saying 'she's breathing'.
"My first thought was 'I'm hallucinating'. It felt like a dream. But he kept saying 'she's breathing' and explained that she had been for about half an hour.
"We rushed to Ambika's room and called the doctors. She was breathing and she kept breathing. It was the most amazing feeling.
"I think Ambika was saying 'no don't switch off the life support, I'm still here'. It was like watching a miracle happen right in front of us. We finally had some hope."
The first-time mum started to feel unwell in the last month of her pregnancy with cold and flu-like symptoms.
And when Manisha reached 39 weeks she deteriorated significantly with abdominal pains, a fever and vomiting.
After a particularly bad night, Manisha called maternity triage at Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, at 5.46am on 31 October 2017 but was allegedly told not to attend hospital and to try having a hot bath.
Upon contacting the triage unit again at 7.50am to say she was still being sick and in excruciating pain, Manisha claims she was told the midwife was busy.
The midwife called Manisha back 15 minutes later at 8.05am and this time advised the mum to come in to be checked which she did.
Manisha said: "At 39 weeks and four days, I remember feeling really rundown all day. When I got into bed that night I was shaking.
"I managed to sleep for a few hours but when I woke up I really didn't feel well and I had this ache in my belly.
"I phoned my mum and she told me I might be in labour. I tried to ride it out for another hour but the pain kept getting worse and I started throwing up so I called maternity triage.
"She told me it was probably early labour and to try having a hot bath. I felt like she was ignoring what I'd told her about how I was feeling. But she was the midwife so I believed her.
There are no words to explain how it feels to say goodbye to your child when they've only been in this world a few weeks
"I tried to force myself back to sleep but suddenly everything got so much worse. Suddenly I couldn't feel Ambika, I was in agony and I had a really high temperature.
"I phoned again and they said the midwife was busy and would call me back. By the time she called back I was screaming in pain. I was so scared.
"We rushed to the hospital. My mum still thought I was in labour but the pain was all over the place and it wasn't coming and going. I knew something wasn't right.
"I had deteriorated so quickly. I had gone so pale, my skin was transparent and I was in so much pain I couldn't even walk. I needed a wheelchair.
"I felt like the midwife and nurses were looking at me like I was just experiencing contractions but then I projectile vomited and my stomach lining was coming up."
When Ambika's heart rate dropped significantly at 9.25am, a decision was made to deliver her by emergency c-section.
The baby girl had to be resuscitated before she was rushed to St Mary's Hospital, Manchester, for cooling treatment and placed on a ventilator.
Following the traumatic birth, Manisha had to spend three weeks separated from her poorly little girl, fighting sepsis and a Strep A infection in intensive care at Wythenshawe Hospital.
Ambika, who had severe brain damage, was also found to have a Strep A infection.
Strep A, which would account for Manisha's cold and flu symptoms throughout the last month of her pregnancy, is not usually serious and can be easily treated with antibiotics.
However when left untreated or in people with lowered immune systems, such as pregnant women, Strep A infections can become invasive and lead to more serious conditions like sepsis.
Symptoms of sepsis
Sepsis, or blood poisoning, is a serious complication of an infection, and claims 50,000 lives in Britain each year.
Thousands more who survive the illness are left with disabilities and life-changing consequences.
It's important to know the symptoms to look out for.
The early symptoms can include a high temperature, shivering, a fast heartbeat, changes to your breathing or feeling different to normal.
In more severe cases, blood pressure drops to a dangerously low level and according to the NHS, further symptoms can include:
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- A change in mental state, such as confusion or disorientation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Severe muscle pain
- Severe breathlessness
- Less urine production than normal – for example, not urinating for a day
- Cold, clammy and pale or mottled skin
- Loss of consciousness
It's also vital to know the signs to look out for in children – as up to 4,000 under-fives die every year from the condition.
Go straight to A&E or call 999 if your child has any of these symptoms:
- Looks mottled, bluish or pale
- Very lethargic or difficult to wake
- Feels abnormally cold to touch
- Breathing is very fast
- A rash that does not
Manisha said: "When Ambika was born, she was completely blue. They didn't know how long she had been starved of oxygen. She showed no signs of life for about eight minutes.
“It was awful. What was supposed to be the best day of our lives, turned out to be so heartbreaking. It was a traumatic and scary time for the three of us and our whole family.
"Being separated from Ambika for so long while I was in the ICU was horrific. I was so unwell and out of it, I didn't really know what was going on or how she was.
"For any first-time parents, parenthood is a scary, new and emotional experience but this was on a whole new level and so far from what we expected.
"But through it all, we have tried to be as strong as possible for our baby girl and provide her with all the care and love she needs.
“I also want to raise awareness of the need for pregnant women who report such severe signs of illness to be taken seriously when they ring midwives and not just dismissed as being in the early stages of labour.
"It’s frightening to think of this happening to any other families because I was so unwell and basically could have died."
After starting to breathe on her own, Ambika was removed from the ventilator and transferred back to Wythenshawe Hospital.
Despite the terrible prognosis, the baby girl started doing things nobody can explain, opening her eyes and taking bottles of milk.
By the time, their daughter was fully bottle fed in mid-December 2017, Manisha and Pyush were told they could take Ambika home.
While this should have been a completely happy occasion, Manisha admits that they were filled with "anxiety" due to Ambika's complex needs.
At first it seemed the parents' fears were coming true as Ambika screamed in pain 24 hours a day, suffered regular seizures and experienced such severe muscle spasms her whole body would arch.
According to Manisha, doctors put this all down as life with brain damage but the mum and her husband Pyush were determined not to give up on their girl and researched alternative treatments.
Ambika was switched to goats milk which resolved her reflux, put on an all organic diet, natural supplements and undergoes regular physiotherapy, sensory play and massages.
The proud parents have even installed a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to help control Ambika's seizures and help with her healing.
It hasn't been an easy road for the family but in the last year, Ambika has come on in ways nobody ever expected.
The "happy and smiley" little girl can now sit in a pushchair to go out and about and has gone from needing ten medications for seizures to just two.
Manisha and Pyush believe with enough therapy, Ambika's brain will be able to learn to process these senses.
While she is still too young to know exactly what her future will hold, Ambika's family will never stop fighting for her and have set up a gofundme page.
I'll never forget the day Ambika was finally well enough for us to hold her without all the tubes and wires for the first time
Manisha said: "I'll never forget the day Ambika was finally well enough for us to hold her without all the tubes and wires for the first time. She was five weeks old. It was just surreal.
"I felt an instant bond with her. It was the best feeling. I really felt like god was on our side.
"We were told she would never be able to bottle feed but by the time we left hospital she was fully bottle fed.
"Taking her home should have been a happy occasion but instead I was filled with anxiety. I was so scared we wouldn't be able to give her what she needed.
"She would scream non-stop. It was so distressing and we didn't know what to do. The doctors seemed to be telling us this was just life with a child with brain damage.
"Then I don't know what came over me but I just decided to stop listening to them and do our own research into alternative treatments.
"Since then, she has been the most happy baby. Whenever she hears my voice she smiles and she is really alert.
"We are so so proud of her. She has come such a huge way. I just look at her in awe.
"She is so strong and seeing her and how well she is doing, gives us the strength to keep fighting.
"She is defying everyone's expectations. The doctors don't even speculate about her future anymore. They can't because she has already defied so much."
Following the incidents surrounding Ambika's birth, Wythenshawe Hospital are undertaking its own internal investigation.
Ambika’s family has now instructed brain injury specialists at JMW Solicitors to investigate the treatment provided to Manisha and Ambika to find out if the poor care they faced caused the baby's brain damage.
Sally Leonards, a partner at JMW Solicitors, specialising in brain injuries, has significant concerns about the care provided.
Sally said: "Tragically Ambika has suffered catastrophic brain damage and is likely to have very significant care needs for the rest of her life.
"It is very early in terms of our investigation and we will be examining the care provided very thoroughly to find out what caused Ambika’s brain damage and if this could have been prevented.
"I am particularly concerned that Manisha was not told to attend hospital when she called with symptoms of an infection which can pose a significant risk to mother and baby.
"First-time mums are frequently advised not to come to hospital in the early stages of labour but clearly adequate steps need to be taken to ensure those in need of urgent care are seen straight away.”
A spokesperson for Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, on behalf of Wythenshwe Hospital and St Mary's Hospital, said: "We understand how difficult this is for the family but are unable to comment as the investigation is ongoing."
To donate to Manisha and Pyush's fundraising for Ambika, click here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/miracle-ambika039s-healing-journey
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