Mercy Hospital for Women was privileged to care for three extraordinary people who are focussed on a bright future.
As Bridget Ure and Casey Tutungi counted the months to the birth of their first child, they knew their world was about to change forever. They could not have known it would be turned upside down much sooner.
A talented AFL footballer, Casey was playing for South Barwon in Geelong on Saturday 22 June 2013 when he collided with an opposition player. Unable to move, Casey was airlifted to the Austin Hospital with suspected vertebrae and spinal cord injuries. While surgery repaired the fractures, his spinal cord damage was irreversible. In a split second Casey had become quadriplegic.
Yet speaking to Bridget today, there’s no trace of the trauma that life-changing event must have wrought. It’s testament both to her formidable inner strength and to the support offered by staff at Mercy Hospital for Women throughout the journey to baby Asta’s birth.
“Casey had his accident when I was in my second trimester,” says Bridget. “I was booked into our local hospital in Geelong for the
birth, but as Casey was at the Austin for treatment, I had my 19-week scan at Mercy Hospital for Women which is next door. We
then started to think it would be easier with our situation to have our baby there too. I was put in touch with Deborah Pidd from the
Midwifery Unit who explained that while normally the hospital’s November intake would be closed, for us they would make an exception.”
For Deborah, extraordinary times called for extraordinary help. “I booked Bridget in to keep seeing me as I had the background
on her situation,” recalls Deborah. “It was just easier than having her see different people — it meant we could work around her timetable.”
Deborah’s empathy for the complexities Bridget faced made the path ahead a little smoother.
“Deb was so lovely from the very beginning,” Bridget says. “She said ‘I don’t want you to have to explain your story every time you come in.’
“The extra support definitely helped. When we were planning the birth Deb connected me with all the right areas, including social
workers to check if I needed counselling. Then because Casey was in a wheelchair some may have assumed things would be easier if I was induced.
But I wanted everything to be super normal so the baby could come when she was ready. Deb completely understood that. “It took a lot of coordination; working out how Casey could make it to the hospital if I went into labour in the middle of the night, where would he sleep. Deb was so helpful; she drew up a plan that made life really easy.”
Deborah is quick to point out Bridget’s birth plan and care were a testament to teamwork.
“The plan revolved around what would be best for both Bridget and Casey when they came in, so it was a multidisciplinary effort between my area, social work and hospital management, who were very supportive,” she says.
“The Austin spinal ward was also happy to give any help we might need.”
Deborah saw that continuity was central to restoring some normality to Casey and Bridget’s days.
“I went over to the Austin one day a week to do childbirth education with Casey because he had a strict treatment regime at the time,” says Deborah. “It was important to go over any questions he had about the birth. Then we had to work out how he could be there, because of course he really wanted to be. So it was good to liaise with other units beforehand. It meant we could organise a bed in the next room and a lifting machine to help Casey come in.”
Within this cocoon of exceptional care Bridget and Casey found the space and support they needed to welcome their baby daughter – on their own terms.
“I was in labour for a long time so I had three changeovers of midwives but they were all amazing,” remembers Bridget.
“They told me to do whatever I need to do to get through this. And that part was really nothing to do with Casey! I remember one of the midwives on the second shift was due to finish but chose to stay. If that’s the treatment everyone gets when they have a baby…just incredible.”
Naturally, Deborah was also close by to witness the months of planning come to fruition.
“I ended up staying throughout Bridget’s labour,” she says. “The doctors as well as our midwives were really inclusive. Everyone worked towards making the birth beautiful, and it was.
“Casey and his parents were able to be in the room. After they went home I helped him out with drinks and whatever he needed. Bridget and Casey were determined that after all the media about Casey’s accident, the birth would be a private, special moment. So I guess being able to do what we did for them meant they could have that.
“Bridget had been worried about Casey more than herself. I kept saying to her “It’s got to be about you; we need to make sure everything’s in place for you.” And that’s exactly what happened.”
Casey and Bridget’s memories of Asta’s birth speak for themselves. “It was really positive for Casey too,” confirms Bridget. “He wanted to be involved as all partners do. He was very happy knowing I was being taken care of. I think like most men he was blown away by the whole thing!”
Founding Sister of Mercy Catherine McAuley said “A good beginning is of great importance.” It seems Mercy Health’s support has helped this family open a new chapter of their lives with joy and hope.
“Everything has been fine at home,” says Bridget. “Casey is very involved in Asta’s care; we do things a bit differently from others but as he’s home more than some other dads he gets extra time with her.
“I really do feel, and I don’t believe it was just because of our circumstances, that Mercy Hospital has great people. We feel incredibly lucky.”