1 Nov 2021

Parents of vulnerable children fear impact of Covid-19

9:56 am on 1 November 2021

The mother of a baby whose operation was cancelled with 10 minutes notice because there was no room in Hutt Hospital's intensive care unit fears wait times will blow out further once Covid hits.

Medical equipment in an ICU ward.

Liz McGimpsey is urging people to get vaccinated to help protect vulnerable children like her daughter Marigold. Photo: 123rf

Liz McGimpsey's daughter Marigold, who has just turned one, needs surgery to fix her cleft palate.

The family - who have three other children - had been preparing for weeks, trying to keep bugs at bay and were ready for the surgery on 26 October.

Marigold and her mother Liz McGimpsey

Marigold and her mother Liz McGimpsey Photo: SUPPLIED

McGimpsey's mother had taken a week's annual leave and travelled from New Plymouth to help out.

"Marigold was admitted, changed into a gown, had some meds and we signed some papers and talked to the anaesthetist.

"Ten minutes before she was due to go in to theatre, the nurse came in - and she had this devastated look on her face.

"She said, 'I'm sorry, emergency surgeries are behind and HDU is full [Marigold has to be in high dependency unit for 24 hours after surgery] and the surgery has to be postponed."

The couple were told it would probably be next year before Marigold got her operation.

"They said if it was this side of Christmas, the surgeon would have to cancel his annual leave."

This was the worst news, she said.

"There's kind of a window for cleft palate surgery because it affects speech and she's also got hearing loss, so she needs grommets and obviously doesn't eat anything orally. Tube-feeding takes a huge amount of our time and energy.

"We're really relying on this surgery.

"If something happens and we couldn't tube feed her, there's no other way we could get food into her, which is a scary thought."

The McGimpseys are relieved that a couple of days later they got a call from the hospital to say Marigold has a new date for surgery, in just a couple of weeks.

"I'm just so grateful, but Marigold is not the only kid who is affected by this.

"I'm on a tube-feeding group and there are a lot of other parents who rely on elective surgery for many reasons.

"There's just a real sense of fear for parents who have got vulnerable babies of what [Covid] will mean for their day-to-day care."

Liz McGimpsey says she understands why some people may feel hesitant about getting the Covid vaccine - she used to be sceptical too.

She and her husband Caleb decided against vaccinating their first baby Freda in 2014, preferring - as they believed at the time - to let her natural immune system develop.

It was a decision they bitterly regretted when the newborn fell critically ill with whooping cough and spent six weeks in Starship Hospital.

That experience galvanised their extended family too, including Liz's brother, Todd Williams (more widely known as the Melbourne-based rapper Louie Knuxx), who spoke publicly in support of getting vaccinated against Covid.

His death in August at just 42 - of undiagnosed heart disease - caused terrible grief, made worse by false claims on social media that it was a fatal reaction to the vaccine.

"Here's the thing: We know Covid is coming.

"We know the vaccine is 97 percent effective at keeping people out of hospital.

"But 90 percent vaccinated still leaves a lot of the population unvaccinated and our hospitals don't have the capacity for that.

"I understand people are scared. But so am I - and so are plenty of other parents with vulnerable babies that rely on everyone around them to keep them safe.

"Please, please, please - despite your fears and reservations think about it."

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