Finding joy at last after the pain of miscarriage

WHEN Zac and Gill Drury married five years ago they promised to be there for each other always, through good times and bad, in joy and sadness.

Little did they know how much those promises would be tested, as over the next four years they lost three babies to miscarriage.

But their story does have a happy ending as 10 months ago and after daily treatment by injection of blood thinning drugs they become parents to their little miracle Nathan.

At their son’s naming ceremony Gill, aged 43, and Zac,33, decided that rather than accept gifts for their son they would like to raise awareness and funds for the Hughes Syndrome Foundation which helps fund research into the auto immune condition, Hughes Syndrome, which is also known medically as antiphospholipid syndrome or APS.

Miscarriages are more common than many people realise and it is thought that as many as one in five recurrent miscarriages are due to Hughes Syndrome which is potentially treatable.

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    The condition causes ‘sticky blood’ and due to the blood clotting tendency in pregnant women with Hughes Syndrome, clots block the placenta causing it and the baby to wither and die.

    Tragically, many women suffer repeated miscarriages and these can occur at any time during the pregnancy including stillbirths

    Gill, a hypnotherapist from Nether Edge was referred to the Jessop Wing’s specialist clinic run by Dr TC Li, for tests after she and Zac experienced the heartache of losing two babies.

    Hughes Syndrome is diagnosed by simple blood tests and pregnant women can be treated using junior aspirin and heparin injections.

    Two positive tests eight weeks apart were needed for diagnosis.

    But in Gill’s case getting a diagnosis proved to be more difficult than it first appeared.

    “‘I was lucky to be treated by Professor T C Li and his team at the Jessop Hospital in Sheffield, one of only a handful of miscarriage clinics in the country. In my case I had one positive test and one negative and so was declared to be free from the condition,” she said.

    “However, my intuition told me that this was what was causing the miscarriages and I insisted on a third test as I wasn’t prepared to go into another pregnancy with those 50:50 odds.

    “The test came back positive. I have since come across others to whom the same has happened. The Foundation tells me this is not uncommon as the condition is cyclical. If I had not pressed the matter I would probably continued to lose babies’,” she said.

    Thanks to the diagnosis they finally had an understanding of why they were losing babies.

    But Gill believes there needs to be greater awareness of the treatment which has been shown to be extremely effective and raising successful pregnancies from a low of 20 percent to 85-90 percent.

    She questions why the NHS doesn’t respond sooner and test women for the Syndrome after a first miscarriage.

    “Currently it’s the practice to test for the condition only after three consecutive miscarriages – would anyone expect to have three heart attacks or three strokes before someone looked into it?” asks Gill. “ Why do so many parents have to endure such heartache for the sake of a 10 blood test? Why is it not standard for all women wishing to become pregnant?”

    Gill’s difficulties did not end with the diagnosis. She was due to start the treatment when she had a third miscarriage at five weeks. She then went on fertility drugs before conceiving ‘by accident’, at a time when they had almost given up hope.

    “Emotionally I don’t think people realise the loss of a baby and how it affects your partner, your relationship and the potential grandparents. It affects your friendships as there is this overwhelming desire for a baby.”

    But when she fell pregnant with Nathan, Gill had a sense it would be fine and would work out.

    She had to cope with pregnancy related diabetes as well as having to inject herself with medication each day to prevent blood clots.

    Finally, after a long and difficult birth, Gill and Zac had their longed-for baby.

    “It was amazing but I was shell-shocked,” admitted Gill.

    “Having Nathan is the thing that has taken away the pain of losing the others. We will never forgot the experience but he has helped to salve for the pain.”

    Gill is enjoying motherhood and says she has been blessed with a lovely, calm baby.

    “He’s the most contented, happy baby,” she said. “I feel incredibly lucky to have been treated by Professor Li and his team, I cannot praise them enough.”

    Johanna Frels from Sheffield also lost three babies because of Hughes Syndrome and said: “I urge couples not to give up hope when they have lost babies because of this condition, it is in most cases treatable with simple aspirin or heparin and the results are amazing’ .

    Johanna who is now a mum of three herself following treatment at Jessops said a lot of GPs and hospitals don’t know about the condition, so it often goes undetected or misdiagnosed - at the moment it’is still relatively unheard of.

    Gill and her family and friends are continuing to spread the word as Hughes Syndrome Awareness Week is underway runs until September 23.

    “So far we have raised 175 for the Hughes Syndrome Foundation but more importantly we need to raise awareness of this condition, so I ask each person who reads this article to help us spread the word – make a promise to tell three people what you’ve learnt, and ask each of them to tell three people and so on. Let’s prevent others having to endure what we have.

    “Help us to change people’s lives for the better,” added Gill.

    For more information or to make a donation please contact the Hughes Syndrome Foundation www.hughes-syndrome.org Tel: 0207 188 8217