A doctor who has helped care for thousands of babies in Sheffield over the last 30 years is using his retirement to urge families to take part in a sponsored buggy push to help his neonatal intensive care unit continue to save lives.
Alan Gibson is retiring from Sheffield’s Jessop Wing this month and to mark end of his career he has been asked to officially open an annual buggy push to raise money for the maternity hospital.
With a ‘superhero’ theme for this year’s event, organisers describe Dr Gibson as a real life hero to local families.
Around 8,000 babies are born each year at the Jessop Wing, including 900 critically ill and premature babies.
Mr Gibson said: “I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a rich and satisfying career with so many treasured moments.
“Nature has built so many mechanisms into babies to try to ensure their survival and it is actually quite rare that these fail. In these cases, there can be terrible sadness as families watch their hopes and dreams shattered. Helping families through that is not easy. But it is a very important part of the job. There are so many happy moments, though, thanks to so many people.
“The NHS is an amazing organisation and neonatal intensive care epitomises what is great about it. A baby may require the highest level of intervention suddenly and without warning and they will always receive it whether day or night, weekday or weekend - it is that instant response that never ceases to impress me and I am proud to be part of it.”
One of Mr Gibson’s patients, William Lindsay, now two years old, was more than 12 weeks premature and weighed just 2lb 10oz at birth.
His parents Gemma Meeson and Paul Lindsay, from Greystones, Sheffield, took part in last year’s buggy push, where William was reunited with his consultant.
Paul said: “At 27 weeks and four days, Gemma was in labour all night. William’s heart rate began to drop and the midwives suspected infection, so he was delivered via an emergency caesarean section.
“I was left alone in the corridor, absolutely terrified I was about to lose them both. All I heard was the shouting and a whole surgical team were in there working on Gemma, whilst the neonatal team waited for William. It was one of those moments in time when your fear just presents right in front of you and you know that there is absolutely nothing you can do but stand there helpless, leaving those dearest to you in other people’s hands.”
Gemma said: “William spent about a month in intensive care and then roughly the same amount of time in the high dependency unit. Alan used to come and see him each day and was always very attentive to him and also looked after us.
“Whilst in HDU, William had a bad turn with a suspected infection. We were told that we could lose him. Alan came as soon as he knew and really reassured us and said he seriously doubted he had infection and that it was just what some premature babies do when they get tired.
“Alan advised us to go home and leave William in the best hands he could be. It was possibly the hardest night we have ever had but we had to trust Alan - and he was proved right. William continued to gain weight very well and came home at nearly 7lbs.
“I honestly think if it wasn’t for Alan’s confidence and knowledge when it came to premature babies, we couldn’t have left William with him that first time. But Alan filled us with trust and hope. I don’t think Alan ever thought for a second William wouldn’t make it - for that we are very thankful because he gave us hope.
“Alan is a very special man who inspires confidence in everyone he meets, including all of his colleagues. We can never put into words fully what he means to us.”
Georgia and Joseph Pass, 19-year-old twins, were born 10 weeks early in 1996.
Their mum, Lisa Pass, said: “When the twins were born, it was a really stressful time. We had no idea they were going to be premature as I’d had a really healthy pregnancy. They were both in incubators so we couldn’t hold or cuddle them for days, which was heart breaking.
“It was a completely alien environment for us. Alan kept us informed about what was happening with both of the children. He explained things in detail and was always available if we wanted to ask any questions about their care.
“He was very reassuring at all stages and really went above and beyond.”
The Buggy Push
The third annual Jessop’s Buggy Push takes place on Sunday, May 22 at Rother Valley Country Park, Rotherham, at 11am.
The 5k walk has been organised by the Sheffield Hospitals Charity.
This year there is a superhero theme, with capes provided to everyone taking part.
Families can push buggies or children can complete the event on bikes, scooters or trikes.
Tickets cost £12.50 for adults, £5 for children aged five-15 or £30 for a family ticket.
For more information visit Jessops Buggy Push or call 0114 271 1351.