April 19, 2024

The Lucy Letby Case Gives Me Chills To My Core

So, how do you cope if you find yourself in that situation? “For any of my patients who are having to cope with a critically sick baby, I tend to focus on practical things,” says Dr Marielle Quint, a Chartered Clinical Psychiatrist at The Soke who specialises in supporting new parents.

“First, locate the people you really trust, whether that’s friends or family members. Is there any way you can share care with them while in the hospital? Then there’s the oxygen mask principle – it can be so hard when babies are sick, because you want to be there 24/7, but self-care has to come first at a very basic level. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and some kind of nutrition, otherwise if you’re not up to it, it’s just not possible to care for that baby. And take it one minute, one hour at a time – it’s all too easy to fall down a Google hell hole, but when you find yourself in that situation you need to know when to limit the never-ending flow of information before it becomes overwhelming. ”

As well as looking after your basic physical needs, it’s also hugely important to address any mental health or post-traumatic stress issues that all too often crop up after situations like this. For those suffering from PTSD, Dr Quint recommends specific treatments like EMDR (short for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing), which uses bilateral stimulation through eye movements to help process traumatic memories, and EFT or tapping, which helps alleviate stress and anxiety.

If you find certain sounds, smells or locations (like hospitals) particularly triggering, you might want to engage in some exposure therapy to build your way back up to being able to tolerate them again (particularly if you find yourself having to spend prolonged periods of time in them, perhaps during subsequent pregnancies).

However, Dr Quint is also keen to point out that true PTSD – which tends to be associated with things like flashbacks, nightmares and heightened states of emotion – is actually a lot less common than we might think. “The term is one that’s bandied about a lot, but actually true PTSD is pretty horrifying,” she says. “It’s also important to emphasise that it doesn’t have to be triggered by an objectively horrific event – PTSD is very subjective. It’s the way that you experience it as traumatic that’s key. ”

And not everyone requires therapy to overcome trauma – for me, talking it all through with my friends and family was enough. “That is absolutely a valid response,” says Dr Quint. “You’re an expert in yourself. For some people, going through an experience like this will be crippling and they need help, while others can process it in quite a functional way and still be ok. ”

For me, the best tonic was seeing my daughter get better – during her time in the ICU she had four surgeries to correct an undetected issue with her bowel that had been there since birth, and after two further months on the surgical ward she was allowed to come home. Now my daughter is a happy, healthy two-year-old and it’s unlikely she’ll have any long-term health repercussions. But I’m all too aware that she’s one of the lucky ones, and when a case like Lucy Letby’s comes along, it reminds me how important it is to never take that for granted. During our time in the ICU, I met mothers who didn’t get to go home with their babies, and those memories will stay with me forever. “When you lose a child, the most important thing is to take the time to process and to grieve,” says Dr Quint. “Overcoming that loss is not something you can put a timeline on. ”

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