Expectant parents, Ceinwen and Ross Gregory, hoped for a birth that would be free of drama but when the ‘Beast from the East’ brought heavy snowfall to Wales on 1st March 2018, their hopes quickly turned to fears.
It happened to be on that day, whilst the couple were snowed in, their baby decided to arrive! Thanks to the commitment and rapid response of our St John Cymru volunteers; who were using our network of 4x4 vehicles and assisting our emergency services with Snow Cover, Ceinwen and Ross were rescued from their home and baby Llinos Ruby was delivered safely at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport.
We asked Ross to tell us their story from his point of view:
"I cannot describe the sense of relief I felt when the blue flashing lights of a 4x4 emergency vehicle arrived at my home in the latter hours of St David’s Day. The 1st of March 2018 was the due date of our first baby and throughout the day I had been supporting my wife, Ceinwen, as her contractions became progressively stronger. At the same time I had been anxiously monitoring the snowy conditions as a red weather warning was announced for the South East Wales area. I quickly realised that contractions and heavy snowfall were not a good combination, nor was it part of our birth plan!
"Dialling 999 became the only option for us that night. Ceinwen’s contractions had become so strong that we had called the Maternity Unit at the Royal Gwent Hospital and were advised to make our way to the hospital as soon as possible. As Ceinwen’s contractions intensified and the snow continued to fall, so our challenge of getting to the hospital grew and grew. Despite our attempt to move our car, it was clear that the snow was too deep and the roads were impassable to most vehicles. This is when I knew we had a bit of a situation on our hands!
"The call handler at the Welsh ambulance control centre calmly took our details and assured us that emergency support would be with us as soon as possible. This was a relief but I remained very concerned that an emergency vehicle would struggle to make it to our house due to the steep hills in the area and the heavy snowfall. If this was not worrying enough, the Welsh ambulance call handler started to prepare us, as a precaution, for an emergency home birth. This was definitely not part of the birth plan!
"Within twenty minutes of the 999 call, a two man rapid response crew were at our door, weighed down with bags of medical equipment. My sense of relief increased at this sight and so did Ceinwen’s as she took her first puff of the gas and air the crew had brought into the house. The crew, Gaz and Mark, did a tremendous job of supporting Ceinwen in this active stage of labour. I could tell immediately that they were highly proficient emergency responders and were clearly concerned about how advanced Ceinwen’s labour was. Importantly, they brought a sense of calm and humour to the situation, which was very much welcomed at this point. Following an assessment of Ceinwen, an urgent call was made to the crew’s supervisor about transporting us to the hospital and within minutes we were helped to the 4x4 vehicle and were hospital-bound.
"Despite the poor driving conditions, the 4x4 was navigated with care through the snow and we arrived safely at the Royal Gwent Hospital where the maternity staff were awaiting. From then on everything was a bit of a blur and within one hour our beautiful daughter was delivered. The midwives and staff of the maternity unit were incredible. The birth was so quick however that Ceinwen required immediate medical attention after losing nearly two litres of blood. The medical response at the hospital was fantastic and Ceinwen’s condition was quickly stabilised. Mother and baby were safe at last and to say I was relieved at this time would have been a huge understatement.
"What became very clear is how close we had been to a significant medical emergency with a potential threat to life. For us, it doesn’t bear thinking about what could have happened if the emergency responders had not attended and supported us when they did.
"In all the ‘excitement’, we hadn’t fully appreciated that our 999 call had been supported and responded to by St John Cymru. We discovered that Gaz and Mark, both proficient nurse practitioners, had taken the call as part of the network of St John Cymru volunteers and 4x4 emergency responders, set up to support the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust at times of extreme weather. Until we faced an emergency ourselves, we were unaware that this support is provided all year round in Wales and we are so thankful it is.
"It is so reassuring to know that St John Cymru is committed to providing frontline emergency services, working alongside NHS emergency teams and building an entire network to help save lives in the community. We have seen first-hand how essential these services are and we hope the centenary celebrations help to further raise the profile of the important work of St John Cymru.
"We cannot thank Gaz, Mark and St John Cymru enough for their emergency response on the night of 1st March 2018. We feel privileged and enormously grateful that 100 years to the day after being established, we were able to benefit from the dedication and expertise of the volunteers and the services of St John Cymru."