It’s not often we get to tell a story like this. Baby Emily is named after the kind-hearted anaesthetist who kept her promise and held her mum’s hand during a traumatic birth. Mum Charlotte wanted to introduce baby Emily to her namesake, and to say a big thank you for her care. A reunion was on the cards, so we squeezed it in, just in time for Christmas …
“Back in February, I was in the hairdressers having a girly day with my eldest daughter Ellie, when suddenly I had a placental abruption,” explains Charlotte Burgoyne, Assistant Practitioner in Radiotherapy Oncology at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust. “I was rushed to Derriford Hospital, where I was examined and told I had to have an emergency C-section. I’d had two previously for my two older children and so I was fine about it.
“I met Emily (the anaesthetist) down in theatre when I was having the epidural. We were talking about baby names with my husband Peter and I suddenly realised that I didn’t like any of the ones we’d picked. Emily joked that hers was a good name and we had a laugh about it.
“I knew something wasn’t going according to plan when they called for another consultant. It was decided that, due to residual scar tissue, they would need to cut higher up, further than the epidural and into my chest, so it was urgent that I was put to sleep. Peter had to be rushed out and I felt utterly terrified. I grasped Emily’s hand and begged her to stay with me, as I didn’t want to be on my own.
“I woke up quite a few hours later and learnt that, not only did we have a beautiful baby girl, but Emily had kept her promise and stayed with me the entire time. After what happened, we knew there was only one name our baby could be called. And that was Emily.”
At the time, Emily Howells was working as a Senior Registrar in Anaesthetics and Intensive Care at Derriford Hospital. She now works at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.
“I think it’s always worth trying to get more Emilys in the world,” she says, “although I really didn’t expect Charlotte to take me seriously. Everyone forgets the anaesthetist after about 20 minutes. But it’s a very good name and a huge, major honour.”
After hearing Charlotte and Emily’s story as part of this year’s #WhyILovetheNHS Advent Calendar, we decided to reunite the pair. On Friday 14 December, Charlotte surprised Emily with a visit with baby Emily, who is now 10 months old.
“I thought it would be really wonderful for baby Emily to know who she is named after, and for Emily to meet our baby girl,” explains Charlotte, who is also a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian at University Hospitals Plymouth. “Looking back, it was such a scary situation made worse by my husband having to leave the room. I just wanted someone to stay with me, and knowing that Emily did and that she kept her promise got me through all the horrible days and recovering from the trauma of it.
“A lot of people focus on the negatives of the story and say “I can’t believe that happened to you” but it’s so nice to be able to flip it and focus on the positives. We are so grateful to be where we are now.”
Emily adds: “It’s so important for patients to feel safe and looked after, and in the hands of someone that they know they can trust. Charlotte had all of us in the team taking care of her and making sure she was okay.
“I think that our job – being there for people’s best days and also their scariest days – is a huge privilege. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of people’s lives, and to know that you have had an effect on them is very moving and I appreciate it hugely. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to see Charlotte again and of course to meet baby Emily.”
Liz Drake, Consultant Anaesthetist at Derriford, said: “Emily is one of the most reliable and conscientious trainees who often goes the extra mile to provide excellent care to her patients. It’s fantastic that Emily has been recognised like this.”
Charlotte is featured in today’s advent calendar, which you can read here. Emily will be returning to work at University Hospitals Plymouth in June 2019. Baby Emily is looking forward to spending her first Christmas with her older siblings Ellie and Joshua.