Newborn baby given a year to live after he was seriously injured in traumatic birth
Charmaine Malcolm, 22, and her boyfriend Neil Lewis, 26, say their world has been destroyed after their tiny son Ollie suffered catastrophic brain damage during his hospital birth.
They hit out as hospital chiefs launched an urgent investigation.
"Ollie does open his eyes which the doctors said he would never do," explains Neil. "But consultants have told us this will not change anything and he will not survive this. It could be a week or a month but it will definitely be within the first year. There are no words for this. Our world has been ripped apart."
Charmaine, from Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, gave birth to Ollie on February 21. Ollie's skin was blue when he was born and he needed to be resuscitated for 20 minutes.
Charmaine had been admitted to St Michael's Hospital, Bristol, the day before to have Ollie's birth induced. The hairdresser was given two checks every four hours by midwives. But the mum-to-be began suffering agonising pain, which left her unable to move.
Charmaine and Neil both asked their midwife for help but were reassured Charmaine's labour had not started and there was no need for an examination.
"At about half five the next morning I heard piercing screams and begged the midwife to examine Charmaine," says Neil. "Finally she came and it was then we realised she could not find the baby's heartbeat."
Charmaine was told she needed to deliver the baby immediately and she gave birth in just seven minutes. The terrified couple were later told Ollie had been starved of oxygen for between an hour and 90 minutes and he was unlikely to survive.
It was three days before Neil and Charmaine were allowed to hold their baby for the first time. Ollie had already undergone a battery of tests and been helped to breathe by a tube inserted down his throat.
"I saw him covered in wires with a tube down his throat and I felt my heart break," says Charmaine.
"We were told the damage was so severe he was not going to live," explains Neil.
On the Sunday we were told they were going to take his tubes out and he would have minutes left. We got Bristol Registry Office to open that day to get his birth certificate and had Ollie christened on the ward. One hour had passed after that and we thought he was going to die in our arms.
Battling Ollie stunned doctors by continuing to breathe and Neil and Charmaine were able to take their little fighter home.
But Ollie's condition, which occurred due to a lack of oxygen to the brain, means he needs 24-hour care. He must be fed through a tube, cannot swallow or cry and is not expected to live longer than a year.
"We were told by doctors if he makes it through to a year it would be a miracle, so it's literally a waiting game," says Charmaine.
"What makes this harder is the fact that he was completely healthy until this happened," says Neil. "His heartbeat was not checked until it was too late."
After spending more than three-quarters of his five-week life in hospital, Ollie is now given around-the-clock care by his parents, family and nurses twice a week. Exhausted Neil takes the night shift from 10pm-7am, before Charmaine takes over.
"We can't leave him on his own and we can't relax," says Neil. "One minute we are excited that he opens his eyes and the next it saddens us that he could just pass away, it's the worst thing you could ever go through. We will lose his first day of school, growing up, his first girlfriend and his wedding day. We feel robbed."
Charmaine is on maternity leave and Neil is on statutory sick pay but the couple are refusing to return to work, determined to spend every last moment with their tragically frail little boy.
We just want a little bit of help so we do not have to waste time without him," says Neil. "We cannot receive immediate benefits and have been refused crisis loans because I am employed. There needs to be something put in place to help families out there that are put in these rare circumstances.
A full investigation is now being carried out into Ollie's birth.
Alison Moon, chief nurse for University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust, said: "We are very sorry for the extreme distress the family is experiencing. We are conducting a full investigation to understand what happened and we will share this with the family.
"We are in close contact with Ms Malcolm and Mr Lewis and our clinical staff are working to ensure that they have all the support and guidance they need at this difficult time."
What a tragic tale. We wish the family all the best.