Tag Archives: Worcestershire Royal Hospital

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life at the Meadow Birth Centre Worcester Royal

The Tree of Life at the Meadow Birth Centre Worcester Royal

As I walk the dogs in Nunnery Wood, I can’t help but notice that I am now trudging through a mass of leaves on the ground; and looking up, through what a couple of months ago was verdant green tree canopy, I can see branches, and even the grey sky.

So you might be interested to know that there is a certain tree that is bucking the trend; and it is rooted in Worcestershire Royal Hospital. Week after week, even at this time of year, it grows leaves; all unique and super-special. It really is a tree of life.

Now if you wanted to find this tree you would have to come into the hospital, and head towards the Meadow Birth Centre. You won’t see any leaves on the ground but you will see a state of the art purpose built midwifery led unit that is like a 4 star hotel: soft lighting; huge birthing pools in the rooms for water births; and staff who are caring.

And at one end of the unit, painted on the wall is a huge white tree against. When I first saw it was just bare branches; white on a blue wall. But since the opening of the unit, leaves have been added. First one or two; then tens; now 100’s and more leaves every week. And each leaf has written upon it the name of the baby who was born in the Centre; name upon name.

And on days that I feel I have seen too much sadness and grief and pain; I head to the unit; say hello to the staff; and look at the tree.

This tree is literally life giving. And it gives me hope knowing that new lives are coming into the world in an atmosphere of love and care.

Not everyone has the privilege of seeing this tree; after all it’s not a visitor attraction! But the next time you look at the falling leaves and bare branches around you, then think of the Tree of Life, and treat yourself to a smile.

I Just Can’t Imagine It…On the Loss of a Baby

No footprint is to small to leave its impact on the world

No footprint is to small to leave its impact on the world


I have three teenage children and life is often chaotic, but I wouldn’t be without them – even on the worst of days. And whilst, like many of us, we have had our fair share of tragedy, we are all still here.

But really I can’t begin to imagine what it is like for the mother, carrying her baby for so long, to lose this little one. And what it must be like for dad, or grandparents, or family and friends.

To be confronted with the loss of a fragile little life seems cruel; no, it is cruel. And as much as I try, I can’t put myself in that place.

But I can imagine the treatment I would want from the health professionals around me in a situation like this. I want medical competence, of course. But I want understanding and compassion and sensitivity and care.

This is a big ask anywhere. Who is up to such a task?

Well, I received a most moving letter from someone whose daughter had just lost a baby and was care for on Lavender Unit at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. Did they receive such treatment? READ ON:

“I am writing to you as I note you wish to hear of the wonderful work done at the hospital.

My daughter was cared for over six days whilst she sadly suffered a late miscarriage on Lavender Ward recently.

Every single member of staff we encountered was outstanding in their dedication to their very difficult work. Not only do such circumstances demand the highest level of medical care, but also a clear understand of very complex emotions.

Firstly, the cleaners. They were just so lovely as they unobtrusively appeared and kept [N’s] room beautiful- their level of attention to detail and kindness was wonderful.
Then the Health Care Assistants- so discreet and careful as they made sure my daughter was comfortable and was eating enough to keep her energy up.

And the doctors and consultants, of whom there were many, and yet the consistency of approach and continuity of care was outstanding. Their skills and compassion created an atmosphere of confidence and most certainly diminished my daughter’s most extreme fears.

And, of course, the nurses. I lost count of how often I saw them work beyond their designated shift times to ensure [N’s] wellbeing. Their clear knowledge and understanding of her circumstances, and their swift action at the most difficult times exemplified the very best of human endeavour.

Not only that, but everyone working on the ward showed such care and concern for me and for my daughter’s partner.

Since her discharge, I would also like to pay tribute to the Bereavement Services from the Hospital who visited [N] and her partner at home. Their visit coincided with a very hard period for her – one of those days when it is easy to be overwhelmed by sadness and loss. The visit visibly lifted both of them, allowing them to express their deepest thoughts and to receive exactly the right comfort to sustain them as they adjust to their lives.

I have written to the ward, but saw your request on the website. It’s so important, especially in our negative media-led times not to overlook the everyday work of the highest levels of professionalism which goes on in our Hospitals.”

[Name and Address Supplied]

Hope in the Face of Adversity: A Christmas Baby

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

In May I will have been at Worcestershire Royal Hospital as Chaplain for 5 years.

And so every now and then I bump into people who I have met in other circumstances- none more so that this story.

I was minding my own business chatting to a Volunteer in the Main Entrance of the Royal when I noticed a dishevelled man out of the corner of my eye. You kind of get a second sense when you think someone wants to speak with you, and so I asked him if he was OK. His name was Ben, he looked knackered, and he told me why. “My wife Alice is expecting a baby and I have been awake for 36 hours straight.” He said his wife was called Alice, and I wished him good luck and went on my way.

Later that day I was about to go home and I saw him again. This time he still looked knackered but with a dazed air about him; almost floating through the entrance of the hospital (on his way out to have a fag). “How’s it going I asked?” “O Great, she’s had, I ,mean we’ve had, a baby girl.” “Congratulations! Have a cigar!” I said (more a turn of phrase than an anti-health promotion message.”

He told me that their baby was called SOPHIA, and that his partner was called Alice. More than that “Alice would like to see you after what happened before.”

O dear, now the penny dropped. I obviously had some connection to this woman; (not her partner- he was new to me); and so I was wracking my brains.

I went down to post-natal, and when I found ALICE the memories immediately flooded back. Three and a half years ago I had taken the funeral of her son after a pregnancy loss. I remember Alice in particular; vulnerable and still and reserved but full of grief. And I remembered the service, and the blessing I gave to her little boy: “May the Lord bless you…”

And now here she was, and in her arms was a beautiful baby girl. And as Alice saw me her face crinkled into gratitude and relief. “Oh. I’m so glad you’ve come; you’ve really made this time special.”

I was speechless. I’d only just shown my face (and that’s enough to put most people off). I am aware that so often I’m involved in some of the saddest times in peoples lives, and, understandably, they don’t want that bringing back to them by memories evoked by my presence.

But not Alice.

So she passed baby Sophia to me and for a few moments I stood there rocking her and admiring this new life who had emerged into the world. She was beautiful, and fragile, and it felt like I was treading on “Holy Ground”.

And after a moment Alice asked: “Would you say a blessing for Sophia?”

And so, in the same words which were echoed three and a half years ago for her brother for whom time was so short, I prayed for Sophia:

“Sophia, may the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you. The Lord turn his face towards you and give you his peace.”

And now, one final, bold request. “Can I have a photo and share it on my Blog? No worries if not!” “Corse you can Dave. You’ve done so much for you. We’ll never forget what you’ve done for your Son. We owe you such a lot!”

So glad to be there.
So glad to have, for a short while at least, become interweaved with the story of Alice and Ben and Sophia.
So glad to have witnessed a new life start her journey in the world.

Believe me I know that not all stories have happy endings.
I know that many will, this Christmas, face grief which seems insurmountable.
But for now I pass on a story that speaks of HOPE.

And say that, for me at least, my thoughts and prayers will continue to be with this little ball of ‘WISDOM’.

AVON 4: “Patients so well cared for!” An unannounced Visit

Robin Walker on an vist to AVON 4

Robin Walker on an vist to AVON 4

I haven’t blogged for a while because my last post was so emotional that I had to take some time.

And now here we are. In case you haven’t kept up, Avon 4 is in the Aconbury block. In previous posts I have praised Wendy Bull for the way in which she leads this ward. She is fair, firm, enthusiastic and a motivator of staff. She leads by example and is as likely to be found with patients as she is anywhere else.

And it so happened that I bumped into her in the main entrance of Worcestershire Royal the other day. “Make sure on your blog that you give my staff a mention. They are wonderful and hard working even under the pressures they face. They always have time for patients and show real care and compassion.”

Now when Wendy asks (or tells) me to do something I do it (not like I’m scared of her or anything) but just becasue she is a complete star! But you might think “she would say that wouldn’t she”.

But it just so happens that I can back this up. Not by my own words but by the words of Robin Walker MP who visited the Hospital today. He spent some time shadowing me and this time, with no one but us two, we could go where we liked. I suggested that we went to AVON 4– partly because it is in the older part of the hospital and can be forgotten.

We were welcomed by Sister Rachael who, without stage managing or hiding anything, introduced us to some patients. They were pleased to see Robin and, to a patient, all of them said how well cared for they were and how kind the staff were.

Not a set up- they could have said anything.

And later in the day Robin Walker MP Tweeted this, with a picture of him and Rachael.

“Tks to @revdavesouthall for taking me round and being photographer! Great to meet patients so well cared for pic.twitter.com/4cXxfkLg0c “

Now it’s tempting to think that the Nurses had chance to scurry round and do things properly. But they had only 5 minutes notice that we were coming. And what Robin saw, I am proud to say, was a normal ward on a normal day.

It strikes me that this is important. We all know the travesty of the OFSTED reports where schools are given so much notice and put huge preparations into making everything just right. Well that shows what can happen when organisations are on their best behaviour.

Chatting to my Chaplain Colleague Rev Guy Hewlett afterwards, he saw the power in this. As an ex-Custody Suite Seargant for the Police he told me of the Lay Visitors who could visit at any time, day or night, with no notice at all. And that is the spirit in which I took the MP around.

After all, we have nothing to hide. And everything to show. And the openness and transparency of Robin’s visit proved this. Hard working and caring staff doing the work they do day in day out. Outstanding.

And I can tell you this. I would be proud and happy to take Robin or any other visitor to any of our wards at WRH to see the tremendous work that goes on. I have confidence in this place, in my colleagues and their care.

Who knows, perhaps we should think of a team of Lay Visitors who could come in whenever they liked to our Hospitals. Openness and Transparency are our watchwords in the NHS at the moment. Anyone can perform to a test or pre-planned visit. But it won’t tell you as much. And in fact we do have such a team- the relatives of family members who always see what is going on.

So well done AVON 4, Sister Wendy Bull and Rachael on the Team on duty this morning. And thank you Robin Walker for helping me make the point and keeping it real.



There is a particular dynamic to being in Hospital when the patient is your child. The worry, anxiety and concern (take it from someone who knows) is at times overwhelming. In situations like this you want excellent care, support and understanding.

Riverbank is the Children’s ward at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. I don’t have that much occasion to visit it but when I do the staff are always so kind. And that is matched by some tales by children and parents. So here are some “Tales from the Riverbank.”

“From the time we arrived on Bank Holiday Monday, we have received the best care and attention. Special mention to Vicky and Lyndsey our nurses (thanks for the balloon monkey), for Stacey our main nurse on 3 nights. She gave [N] lots of care and support when he felt so ill. You kept us informed all the time, to Mr. Pandi and the great surgeon who did the op (sorry forgot name) and all the staff, nurses support staff, cleaners whom all worked so hard.”

“Fabulous service. very calm and clean. Always smiling and cheerful. No faults at all.”

“Pleasant, helpful staff. Relaxed feel which was reassuring. Good clear explanations about medical issues. Thank you! ”

“My son and I were treated with kindness and thoughtfulness and respect. All staff most helpful and cheerful. The room was most comfortable and clean. Thank you for making a long weekend very bearable.”
“Nursing staff on Riverbank are outstanding. Always ready to listen, comfort, care and make you feel safe. Although we didn’t want to be here, the stay was made easier by their caring natures. Always ready to answer questions. WHAT A FANTASTIC TEAM!”

And my favourites, from a young person and a child:

“I found the service to be top quality and brilliant. All the nurses and doctors have been supportive and helpful with trying to get me back to normal. I thank them for all their support and wish the same for all hospital patients who are ill and wish other hospitals were like this one!”

And finally, from a 5 year old, in her own hand:“I like it has bit elli put in on miy banth on” (with two pictures of smiley faces).
Someone (?Mum) gives the translation or her own views: “All the staff were amazing especially Sarah who looked after [N]; always friendly and smiling

“And Frankie Makes Three.” Guest Blogger Lisa Ventura on the joys and challenges of pregnancy

Baby Frankie's 23 week Scan

Baby Frankie’s 23 week Scan

Lisa Ventura is this weeks Guest Blogger. In this post she explains how she dealt with the news of that her unborn baby has a cleft lip and possibly palate. It is inspiring; life affirming; energising and beautiful- and I will be following her posts on her blog http://www.babyandcleft.co.uk. Her words speak for her and here is her story – so far…

Proud Mum-To-Be Lisa Ventura

Proud Mum-To-Be Lisa Ventura

“I first found out about this wonderful blog when I saw an article in the Worcester News about it last summer. It was very timely for me as I was going to write to the Worcester News to say a huge thank you to Jane Brassington and the staff at the Early Pregnancy Unit at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital for their support and care in the early stages of my pregnancy, after suffering six miscarraiges over the years. I also wrote to David, who featured my email to him and subsequent letter that the Worcester News printed, and spent hours reading all the positive good news stories contained in the blog.

All was progressing well with my pregnancy but at 23 weeks my unborn baby boy, who my husband and I named Francesco Enrico, was diagnosed with a unilateral cleft lip and possibly palate. I’d had my 20 week anomaly scan at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital where my husband and I found out I was having a baby boy, and I was asked to return at 23 weeks as the sonographer couldn’t get a good look at his heart and face because his hands were in the way. So it was at that 23 week scan that we were told he would be born with a cleft lip and possibly palate.

I was referred for an urgent scan up at Birmingham Women’s Hospital to confirm the diagnosis and was amazed to get an appointment up there literally 3 working days after the cleft lip was first picked up. The scan in Birmingham confirmed the diagnosis – my husband and I were initially devastated. I knew nothing about the condition, and blamed myself for it even though I have never smoked, hardly drank and even gave it up completely before I was pregnant, took folic acid every day without fail along with a pregnancy vitamin and took it as easy as I could during the early days. It was simply put down to “one of those things”.

Once I had come to terms with the diagnosis a little more I came across the Cleft Lip And Palate Association (CLAPA) and got in touch with them . They were incredibly supportive and let me ask as many questions as I needed. The more I found out from them, the more reassured I became. I was astonished to find out that 1 in 700 babies in the UK are born with a cleft lip and palate, and there is no known cause as to why.

With such a high rate of 1 in 700 babies being diagnosed with a cleft lip and palate, I decided to use my skills to raise as much awareness of the condition as possible and provide a much needed support network to parents locally. CLAPA doesn’t have a branch in Worcestershire/The West Midlands and I have been in touch with them about setting this up. If it can go ahead then I hope it can happen in partnership with Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust and through antenatal clinics, midwives and other support networks such as NCT. I am also in the process of hopefully setting up a Happy Smiles group, also in conjunction with CLAPA.

Parents-to- be generally have vaguely heard of the condition but have no idea exactly what it is until they get a diagnosis – I know that my husband and I certainly fall into this category. Coupled with society’s view of perfection and beauty I feel that much needs to be done to raise awareness of cleft lip and palate in Worcestershire and the Midlands. We are fortunate enough to be near one of the best cleft lip and palate teams in the country at Birmingham Women’s and Birmingham Children’s Hospitals, and in the coming months I will be trying to raise as much awareness as possible of the condition through blogging, PR, fundraising, using social media and interacting with parents/children who were born with a cleft lip and palate. In addition, according to statistics from CLAPA that were released at their latest annual conference 60% of parents were unhappy with how their diagnosis was delivered to them. I would like to see some support and additional training for sonographers to help them let parents know about a cleft lip and palate diagnosis in a sensitive and empathetic way.

I was so inspired by the Chaplain’s Blog and the great work that David is doing that it encouraged me to start my own to document my journey as a Mum to be of a baby boy with a cleft lip and possibly palate – http://www.babyandcleft.co.uk. Not only will it be a way for me to share what I’m going through and the journey I’m now on with my husband and my unborn baby boy, but I hope it will become a positive blog containing success stories, good news about cleft children who have overcome the condition and an information resource for parents. I look forward to liaising more with Rev David Southall about this condition, and would love to hear from anyone or any parents whose children have been diagnosed with cleft lip/palate and would like to help me with my awareness campaign, or have their success story featured on my blog.

Please get in touch with me via enquiries@babyandcleft.co.uk – I’m also on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/babyandcleft, and twitter http://www.twitter.com/babyandcleft. I look forward to hearing from you and if any of you out there who have children with a cleft lip/palate, or are expecting a baby with a cleft lip/palate, you are definitely not alone.”

I am hugely grateful to Lisa for this story. And I feel supremely privileged that she would let us see the scan of her beautiful boy.

If you would like your story to feature on the site, or be a Guest Blogger- just post me something via the contact details above.

Finally, if you have two minutes to take a quick survey to make this blog better then please visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HXSSGHN.