Shock read: I forgot my own children
After giving birth, Sylwia Mcginty was left fighting for her life
Iwatched, helpless, as the nurse came in carrying a little bundle wrapped in a white, cotton blanket and yellow hat. Closing my eyes, shook my head furiously. I didn’t want to see or touch this baby that the nurses and my husband, Dean, then 36, kept insisting was mine. ‘I called him Frank, like we agreed,’ Dean smiled as the nurse lifted baby Frank gently down on to my chest. It was July 2019 and, although Dean was telling me I’d given birth to Frank two weeks earlier, I didn’t remember any of it. Instead, I looked down at this tiny baby on my chest like he was a stranger.
The foggy mist of confusion was terrifying, and I felt nothing but relief when Dean lifted him from my chest and took him away.
‘Why am I here?’ I sobbed later, when Dean returned. ‘What happened?’ I remembered Dean, and knew he was my husband, but everything else felt so hazy. ‘Try to sleep,’ he soothed, before I slipped back into a deep slumber. It was days later before I came round again, but everything was still so confusing and the memories only slowly began to
‘I JUST COULDN’T PICTURE THEIR FACES’
I remembered I’d discovered I was pregnant with Frank in December 2018, and Dean and I had been overjoyed. And then I remembered that when I was three months pregnant, every time I knelt down to pick something up from the floor I’d felt a sharp pain in the back of my left leg. Eventually, it got so bad that Dean rushed me to hospital. I was told I had deep vein thrombosis and I needed blood-thinning injections twice a day, and daily scans at the hospital to check on the baby.
‘Me and the girls were so worried about you,’ Dean told me, sitting by my hospital bed. ‘Who?’ I frowned as Dean’s eyes filled with tears. ‘Scarlet and Angel,’ he said. ‘Do you remember our daughters?’ I knew I was a mum, and had daughters, but I just couldn’t picture their faces. I was desperate to remember them, but the more I tried to force it, the more confused I became.
Dean told me that, one morning in
July 2019, when I was seven months pregnant, I was at a check-up with the girls when the doctor said I needed to stay in hospital, as my blood pressure was dangerously high.
Dean left his lorry-driving job to come and pick up the girls and bring me an overnight bag. Then, just days later, I’d been wheeled down to theatre for a caesarean section.
I could vaguely recall bits of the caesarean but, after that, my memory was blank.
Dean explained that there were complications during the operation, and a surgeon had had to separate my uterus from my bladder. Afterwards, I’d developed sepsis, then suffered a stroke and heart failure, leaving doctors with no choice but to put me in an induced coma to take the pressure off my heart.
Fighting for my life, with just a 50% chance of survival, I’d been transferred from the Maternity ward at the Salford Royal Hospital to Critical Care at Wythenshawe Hospital, in Manchester. Dean explained that Frank had been transferred, too, and that he was doing well, but when he and a nurse brought him in, I felt confused and upset, and relieved when he was taken away again. Was this baby really mine?
It wasn’t until two weeks later, in August 2019, when I woke up and felt as though the haze was lifting. Lying in my hospital bed, I remembered my two daughters so clearly, their brown eyes and light-brown hair, and I started sobbing as I realised how much I missed them. I remembered how they’d accompanied me to daily check-ups at hospital while I was pregnant, taking turns to play games on my phone, running around the corridors and begging for chocolate from the hospital shop.
Then I remembered Frank being born, and seeing his squashed little face and tiny wrinkly feet as a doctor lifted him up. I felt overwhelmed with guilt that it had taken me so long to remember him.
‘I need to see my son,’ I begged the nurse. ‘I’ll get him,’ she smiled. Minutes later, I had Frank tucked into the fold of my right arm. Already almost four weeks old, I’d not yet fed him or changed him. ‘I’m sorry,’ I whispered, feeling overwhelmed with love and guilt. He was still so tiny, but he had rosy cheeks and his eyes were bright and inquisitive. Later that day, Dean arrived with Scarlet and Angel, and my mum, Krystyna, 54. ‘You’ve both got so tall!’ I gasped in amazement as the girls stood by the door shyly, eyeing the huge machine I was still hooked up to, only they soon shuffled closer for a cuddle with Frank.
‘When can you come home, Mummy?’ Scarlet asked anxiously. ‘Not too long now, I hope,’ I smiled. But by now, I’d realised that even though my memory had returned, I couldn’t lift my left arm at all and my hand just flopped beside me like a lead weight on the bed.
After everyone left, my consultant explained that, although I was over the worst, the stroke had left me partially paralysed on the left side of my body, and I’d need regular physiotherapy. Only, seeing Frank had given me so much determination to get better, for his sake.
CARING FOR FRANK
The next day, after washing my hair, two nurses helped me into a chair and I was able to bottle-feed Frank.
Days later, the feeling in my leg began to return and, after a week, I was able to stand and then walk again, going to the Neonatal unit regularly to help the midwives care for Frank. I still had no feeling in my arm or hand, so doing everything one-handed was frustrating, but it felt so good to finally care for my baby. Finally, in September 2019, after six weeks in the hospital, Frank and I were able to go home. With the help of a regular physiotherapist, I’ve since been able to get my arm moving, although I still have limited sensation in my hand.
The main thing is, I’m still here. Doctors now believe I was suffering from antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), triggered by my pregnancy, a rare condition that leads to multiple organ failure and can be fatal. I’ve been so lucky.
There were times in hospital when I felt so alone, and it’s terrifying how I forgot all about my children. These days, though, as I watch Frank, now 21 months, chase his sisters around the garden, all of them laughing, I’m more determined than ever to cherish every single moment with them.
‘MY HAND FLOPPED BESIDE ME ON THE BED’