‘It was like something off Casualty’ - Mother’s instincts saved the life of her baby daughter who was just 30 minutes from death
PUBLISHED: 08:30 16 May 2018 | UPDATED: 12:09 16 May 2018
A baby girl who was just 30 minutes from dying was saved by her mother’s insistence something was wrong when she realised her daughter was not moving in the womb.
Harper Sharrocks, now 20 months old, was born at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) on September 1, 2016.
But her dramatic arrival came just in time, as doctors discovered little Harper’s umbilical cord was knotted, starving her brain of oxygen, in a one-in-40,000 chance condition called True Knot.
Parents Steve and Natasha Sharrocks, of Lone Barn Road, Norwich, initially went to the hospital a week before Harper was born, after Mrs Sharrocks noticed Harper was not moving as much as she had been.
At first they were told not to panic and go home, but a week later they went back to the hospital, where Mrs Sharrocks works as a medical secretary, “just to be on the safe side”.
And her instincts were right as after she was hooked up to a monitor, panic erupted as medics rushed into action and six members of staff burst through the doors.
Mr Sharrocks, also 31 and a manager at a battery specialist company, did not even have time to change into scrubs as a doctor screamed “move” and whisked Mrs Sharrocks into theatre for an emergency c-section.
Mrs Sharrocks said: “It was like something off Casualty. I just grabbed a nurse and said ‘I haven’t researched a c-section, I’m supposed to be having a water birth with candles’ but she said it was fine and the baby needed to come now. I’ve never seen people move so quickly.”
Mrs Sharrocks, 31, added: “They pushed Steve out of the way and I remember I shouted ‘look after the baby if something happens to me’ to me.”
Harper was delivered just a day shy of 37 weeks, weighing just 4lb, 4oz.
And it was discovered during the c-section she had tied a knot in her umbilical cord at some point during the third trimester.
Had she been delivered naturally - or if the couple had not returned to the hospital - she would have died.
Mrs Sharrocks was able to hold her newborn daughter for just a few moments before she was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
And it would be a pain-staking 12 hours before she could see her again as she recovered from the surgery.
Mrs Sharrocks said: “I remember waking up and someone else was feeding her. I heard Steve say she was tiny. Someone handed her to me and I literally had one cuddle with her.”
Harper was diagnosed with severe hypoglycaemia, hyperinsulinism and cerebral palsy and would spend seven weeks in NICU - where her parents maintained a 18-hour-a-day vigil - before being allowed home.
While Harper had to stay at the hospital and endure blood transfusions, blood testing, and other procedures Mrs Sharrocks was discharged on September 6.
“It was horrible, we got in the lift with other people with car seats who were going home with their babies,” she said. “I got to my mother-in-law’s in Costessey and I’ve never cried so much in my life, I didn’t want to go home without her.”
Later, tests would show cysts on Harper’s brain which, along with the hypoglycaemia, were caused when the knot cut off her oxygen.
This caused part of her brain to not form properly.
Mr and Mrs Sharrocks were told Harper will probably never walk unaided and at the moment she cannot sit, stand or crawl properly.
And her small hands and fingers do not open properly, so she cannot feed herself or hold things easily.
But Harper had clearly inherited her mother’s determination, as she was already defying expectations and was able to roll, and could pull herself up on a ladder, although she cannot then move her legs.
“She’s just the best baby,” Mrs Sharrocks said. “If someone said we could do it all again I’d still want to end up with her.”
The family is now looking to raise £80,000 for spinal surgery which would not be available on the NHS until Harper turns four.
They are hoping to take their daughter to St Louis, Missouri for the operation which would sever nerves and relieve the pain caused by spasticity, which means her muscles to be continuously contracted.
“She will always have cerebral palsy, but she won’t be in pain,” Mrs Sharrocks said.
• To follow Harper’s journey search for Harper’s Little Helpers on Facebook or Twitter, or to donate click here. The couple is also looking for businesses to collect donations in collection tins, which the family can provide. For more information get in touch via social media.