Our daughter Martha was born on 22 May 2015 at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford. She was the big girl in the Therma Kid vest with the doting parents who were probably a little bit in the way. Sorry about that.
During labor, my wife, Sophie, suffered a concealed placental abruption – Martha was without oxygen for some time. The ultrasound revealed that her heart rate was low and Sophie was taken to have an emergency C-section. Martha was born a few minutes later. A doctor cried with us as she explained that Martha had severely impaired brain function and was unlikely to live long. This doctor spoke to us with clarity and compassion and she and her colleagues did lots of clever stuff with lots of clever machines that I pretended to understand because I’m a science teacher. I didn’t understand them, but I loved how they kept our daughter with us.
The level of care given to Martha in the baby unit was extraordinary – Martha’s dedicated nurse, the close attention of her expert consultant and the state-of-the-art medical equipment. Thank you all for keeping Martha comfortable and safe. We were encouraged to play an active role as Martha’s parents – we read her stories and we sang her songs. When I changed her nappy, I was, for a brief moment, the best dad in the world. These dedicated professionals made us feel important.
On the afternoon of the second day, we were told that the situation had improved – Martha’s brain function was on the up. “We will have another night with Martha,” I said to our relatives outside the hospital as the sun shone. A passing doctor took a lovely photo of us all celebrating in the park.
And so the next day … We were all there, in that little room, for the discussion. One of the doctors said: “I think tomorrow would be a good time to ask Martha the question,” and we agreed. Despite the tears, Sophie and I were entirely at peace with the decision that was made that morning.
That evening, we each held Martha. It took five nurses to hold the life support equipment, the ventilator etc. It was so exhilarating finally to cuddle our daughter. At lunchtime on Tuesday 26 May, Sophie and I held hands as Martha’s ventilator was carefully removed. A few valiant breaths later, the consultant gave us a regretful smile; Sophie let go of my hand and took Martha in her arms. She talked quietly to our little girl as she slipped peacefully away.
You – the doctors and nurses of the NHS – gave life to Martha. You gave her five happy days, surrounded by care and love and laughter. That Sophie and I can think back on Martha’s life with deep pride and natural sadness, without the invasion of blame or resentment, is something for which we are immeasurably grateful.
Martha’s younger brother is five weeks old. A week for every day of Martha’s short life and yet he has barely begun. I can’t wait to tell him about his big sister and her charmed life. He will be so proud.
– Ed Tolputt, 31-Jul-2017
I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.
― Marilyn Monroe