Pambula hospital’s maternity unit has been closed for more than four years but it was the closest port of call for Karen Nelson.
Karen Nelson, of Bald Hills has had her babies in Pambula hospital, prior to it closing its maternity unit, in Bega hospital and even in a bathtub when the ambulance wasn’t quick enough for her high speed deliveries, but on Christmas eve it was Pambula hospital’s emergency room which rang out with sounds of a baby’s first cry as Dr Rob Morton, of Pambula Medical Centre delivered a baby boy for Karen and her husband Mathew.
Baby Peter Reginald is Karen and Mathew’s sixth baby. Karen had her first three babies at Pambula hospital – the third came only eight minutes after she arrived. When Pambula hospital’s maternity unit closed, Karen was told to call an ambulance when she was ready for her fourth baby.
The ambulance arrived 30 minutes after the call and in the meantime, Karen’s mother-in-law had delivered the baby in the bathtub.
Karen’s fifth baby was overdue by 18 days and she had to be induced at Bega hospital.
When it came to baby number six, Karen said: “We were told that the baby was due on Sunday, December 22 but as I usually go over, we thought we probably had another two weeks.
“With the last two I’d had contractions for two weeks before the babies were born and so I didn’t think much of a few little pains.”
It was at about 2am on Christmas eve that Karen had got out of bed to attend to her youngest child who was crying and felt more intense pain.
“At about 2.30am I said to Mathew ‘I think I might be in labour.’”
Mathew and Karen said that the plan has always been to go to Pambula hospital and get an ambulance from there to Bega hospital some 30 minutes away. With Karen’s history of quick births the couple felt safer knowing they were in medical hands even while waiting for the ambulance.
But it wasn’t to be.
Karen said: “We called Pambula and they told us to call an ambulance but I was certain enough that I knew I didn’t want to wait.”
Mathew and Karen arrived at Pambula hospital about 3am after a short drive from their home in Bald Hills.
By that stage Karen was certain things were happening and she asked the nurse to call Dr Rob Morton, the GP who has looked after her through all her pregnancies.
Dr Morton arrived 15 minutes later and checked Karen. She said: “I was 8cm and Rob said that I was not going anywhere.”
Karen said: “It was such a blessing that he was there. He has looked after all my pregnancies.”
The couple were not only concerned about the journey to Bega, but also that it could be someone they have never met, a locum, who would deliver their baby, rather than their own doctor, who had cared for Karen throughout her pregnancy.
The one room in the hospital’s emergency area was quickly re-arranged to allow Dr Morton access around the bed and two nurses assisted as he delivered baby Peter at 3.42am.
Mathew said: “It was a hell of a lot less stressful than trying to drive to Bega hospital and having the baby in the car.”
For Karen it was a great experience. “It was sensational. It felt so special to have Rob there. You can tell that this is something that he is meant to do; we couldn’t have had a better outcome.”
Both Karen and Mathew said they were so grateful to Dr Morton, and to the nursing staff who came to have a look at the baby after their shifts finished, the next morning.
Dr Morton insisted on both mum and baby being monitored every 30 minutes over the next couple of hours and at 8.30am on Christmas eve Dr Morton returned to declare mum and baby Peter, who weighed in at 3660g (8lb) could be moved to Bega hospital, although Karen said that she preferred to go home.
Mathew and Karen said that with six children, three boys and three girls, their family is now complete and added that it had been a perfect birth for their last child.