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A little Grace, please

In her quest for a topic for this week's blog, Helen Lewis was beginning to doubt that there was any good news to share - but then she came across the story of a little girl called Grace …

I have been aware that for some timeall my blogs have carried a "gloom and doom" message – much like theCorporal in Dad's Army (for those of us who can remember it) with hisinfamous words, "We're all doomed Captain Mainwaring!". When I come to write, I tend to bounce from one subject to another, but then, suddenly, a topic presents itself that is more often than not emotive and hard hitting.      

You may have read in the papers this weekend the story of baby Grace. She was diagnosed at the age of six weeks with meningitis C and was admitted to a special care baby unit where she was ventilated.

This must surely be any parent's worst nightmare; but Grace's parents were then told that the condition was probably caused by the fact that Grace's mum was group B streptococcus positive. So ensued the care of this precious little girl with daily scans for signs of life and the wait for her parents, which must have been unbearable.

The team prepared Grace's parents for the worst possible outcome and the decision was taken to switch off her life support machine. Grace's Dad was given his tiny daughter to hold and say goodbye; the staff had said that she would simply "slip away" and that they should prepare to hold their precious little girl for one last time. However, miraculously, Grace started to breathe on her own. Over time, she became stronger and stronger and has now been allowed to go home, much to her parents' relief and pride.  

There is no doubt that advances in medical technology have saved the lives of many people worldwide. Immunisation programmes have made some diseases that were almost certainly fatal a thing of the past and that can only be a good thing. Surgical procedures have progressed to such a point that people are no longer kept in hospital for weeks on end but discharged, in some cases the same day. Even if a patient has to stay in hospital it is not for the length of time they would have been expected to stay five or 10 years ago.

Of course, there are some cases that defy medical logic and Grace is one of them. Babies are born to survive – it has been said that the journey from conception to birth is probably the most difficult any of us will ever make. We know that a high number of pregnancies end in miscarriage in the early stages. Sometimes a woman will not even be aware that she is pregnant and simply think that she is having a particularly heavy period.

Women have come to accept that once they are past 12 weeks everything from that point on is plain sailing; they are simply waiting for their abdomen to expand, have people tapping the bump and simply enjoy the fuss that will be made of them by loved ones. At this point, not many people would even consider losing this precious little person – and why should they? It is simply not human nature.  

What Grace's parents must have gone through would have been nothing short of torturous, and regardless of whether you have been in a similar (or God forbid, worse) situation, every parent reading the article would have been touched by her story. Thankfully for Grace and her family, medicine is not an exact science and Grace was determined to survive - and for that we can all smile and share in the good news. It's not before time!