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Bristol Baby in a tube 1978
1978 Monday July 24th - Baby in a tube. On July 24th, shortly before midnight, a daughter was born to John and Lesley Brown of Hassell Drive, Newtown, Bristol. Baby Louise weighed in at 51b 12oz and this time when the Post, like every newspaper in the country, described the new-born infant as a 'miracle' babe, it was hardly less than the truth. She would have been a miracle even a decade before. For the tiny Bristolian was nothing less than the world's first test tube baby. Louise was delivered in hospital at Oldham where the Browns had travelled to be under the care of the famous gynaecologist Mr Patrick Steptoe who had predicted in 1970 that the first test tube baby would be born 'next year'. That announcement was rather over-optimistic, as things turned out. But for childless Lesley Brown, it was well worth the wait when she became one of his patients. These days the fertilisation technique pioneered by Dr Steptoe and first brought to a successful fruition with little Louise's birth has become an accepted part of medical practice. In 1978 the story of the Browns was a wonder which brought a sudden ray of hope to countless childless couples. John and Lesley had tried for children for eight years when Dr Steptoe was approached. He found Lesley had a fault in her fallopian tubes. So fertilisation was made in an intricate piece of medical glassware . . . and the fertilised egg successfully replanted in the mother-to- be's womb. The experiment had been attempted many times and failed. This time it worked brilliantly. The next day's Evening Post front page headline summed it up: "Mrs Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter". 'The world's first test tube baby snoozed peacefully in a plastic cot alongside her overjoyed Bristol mum this afternoon. 'Staff at the Lancashire hospital said mum and baby were both 'excellent'. 'One member of the health department crew who filmed the birth said: 'She is a beautiful baby. ' 'She's got a very small amount of hair and she certainly did a lot of bawling and crying as soon as she was born'. 'The baby was just over a week premature and was delivered by caesarean operation by Mr Patrick Steptoe, the gynaecologist behind the epoch-making step in medical history. 'Mrs Brown's husband, Bristol railway worker John (38), was driven to the hospital last night and afterwards held the wonder baby in his arms. 'He said: 'I am so happy I could cry. It was just like a dream'. 'In fact there were plenty of tears from the thrilled father and one hospital worker said: 'I have never seen a man so excited. He was laughing and crying at the same time ... he was choked with joy. John and Lesley Brown's joy didn't end there. Four years later Lesley gave birth to her second test tube daughter and this time the delivery was made at Bristol Maternity Hospital. Delivering test tube tots had already become part of a hospital's routine.Ryan
My son Ryan, was born at 26+5 weighing 1lb 15oz (890g) when I developed severe pre-eclampsia very suddenly and very severely. I was very ill and I was told the day I found out I had pre-eclampsia that the baby would need to be born asap or it could prove to be fatal to both me and the baby. I had an emergency caesarean on 04 April 2005 (my due date wasn't until 6 July 2005), and Ryan was born at 17.55pm. Ryan had respiratory distress when he was born and needed to be ventilated straight away. He was rushed off to NICU while I recovered from the operation and pre-eclampsia. Ryan was very poorly at first and we knew the first 48 hours were critical, but luckily he pulled through, but not without some scary times. Ryan spent a total of 3,5 months (15 weeks and 1 day) in hospital, during which time he was ventilated for 4 weeks, had an operation to close a duct between his heart and lungs at 3,5 weeks old, had 12 blood transfusions, caught several life threatening infections and needed constant oxygen therapy. In fact Ryan didn't come off his oxygen until he was 7 months old as he had chronic lung disease. We tended for Ryan on his oxygen at home for nearly 4 months. Since his discharge from hospital nearly 2 years ago, Ryan has been back in hospital several times with chest infections, and other various things. He celebrated his 2nd birthday 2 months ago, and although he looks very healthy now (apart from being very small for his age), he still has some ongoing issues, and we still have 3 months check ups with his paediatrician and on going checks with a dietician, eye doctor and speech therapist. Only time will tell how much of an impact being born so early will have on him, we probably won't know the full extent until he starts school. I really hope the government realises just how much having a premature baby can impact your life. It is the most heartbreaking and distressing thing I have ever experienced. Leaving your baby in behind in hospital instead of taking them home like other mums can is so unnatural and I cannot describe the pain seeing your baby fighting for its life, with tubes and wires all around him. Pre-eclampsia is a common factor in premature births, and more funding would go a long way into finding a possible prevention for this too often fatal condition. I am 'lucky' in that Ryan and I both survived this ordeal, but it could have turned out so differently. I am so thankful still to have Ryan, but there are so many others out there whose stories don't have such a happy ending. I really hope this helps. Good luck Francesca
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