Welcome to the latest addition to the It Still Takes a Village – Working in Baby Loss Interview Series where we take a closer look at those who dedicate their day to day to preventing baby loss and supporting those affected. You can read more interviews, here.
Sadly, when a baby dies, it can sometimes be seen to be an avoidable death. In these circumstances, many families seek the support of medical negligence professionals in order to assist in determining if and how it was avoidable. These professionals are supporting a family through an incredibly challenging time in their lives and processing a lot of difficult information. One such solicitor is Wolfestans, who participate regularly in Baby Loss Hour. For today’s spotlight, I’d like you to meet Helena…
So, to start us off, please can you let us know a little about your current role?
I work at Wolferstans Solicitors within the medical negligence department as a Graduate Legal Executive. I have worked in law since 2003 but at Wolferstans since January 2015. It is an extremely busy and demanding job, but so incredibly rewarding. I work full time but luckily from home one day a week.
“I am focussed on trying to help charities on raising awareness over the prevention of stillbirth and to help develop links with charities who may be able to support my clients.”
What are you currently working on? Is there a particular project or aim that you’d like to share with people.
I represent around 60 clients at any one time who have been subjected to alleged medical negligence, and I have a number of clients who are sadly parents who have suffered avoidable baby loss. I am focussed on trying to help charities on raising awareness over the prevention of stillbirth and to help develop links with charities who may be able to support my clients who are struggling and in need of support and guidance outside of my legal expertise.
What motivated you to do the job/role that you are doing now?
Law generally has always been something of interest, but I am on the softer end of law and working within medical negligence allows you to support clients going through various phases of grief and recovery, and to show your emotional side. I aimed to create a network of charities that could support families further, so that I am able to investigate their case but know that they are receiving the support you can so often see they really need. I also have my little rainbow baby, and know the pain of baby loss personally, and wish to help to use that to help others.
In what ways does your current job/role allow you to get involved in the baby loss cause?
My role works in many ways. I support clients professionally and emotionally and investigate their case to at the very least provide them with answers as to why they lost their baby, and ultimately with the view of asking the Trust or clinician to provide answers and accept if there has been an avoidable baby loss or neonatal death. In turn, there is nothing worse than hearing someone in pain, and by connecting to other likeminded charities and companies also campaigning to reduce baby loss and provide support to those affected, it allows me to provide that extra bit of support.
What are the biggest frustrations or constraints that you face in supporting those affected by baby loss or preventing baby loss in the first place?
In a medical negligence claim, it is very difficult when you first receive that expert report advising on whether or not the loss was preventable. Either way, the news you are providing is negative – being able to say there was a way the baby could have been saved is heart breaking and very often it is such a simple failing that leads to the loss of their baby despite the clear guidance, even if they subsequently have a successful claim. However knowing it was unavoidable means there is no case to answer and can cause such a wave of emotion and such concern about whether they can go through a further pregnancy particularly if there is no real way of knowing the cause of the loss. Either way, that family have suffered a loss that we simply cannot fix, but it gives the drive to try to raise awareness.
“It is such a heart breaking loss and I think people who have not been through baby loss simply do not know what to say or how to comfort people.”
Do you think that Baby Loss is still a taboo, and if so, why? Do you encounter issues with it being a taboo in your day to day work?
It is sad that given the amount of babies lost each day, but it is definitely a subject that people avoid. It is such a heart breaking loss and I think people who have not been through baby loss simply do not know what to say or how to comfort people. In my team we have to approach very difficult medical issues so are more open than most.
Who else do you work alongside in terms of baby loss support or prevention? Are there any charities that support you, or perhaps a colleague/volunteer that you couldn’t manage without?
We work with a number of charities, and at the moment we are working particularly closely with Little Things and Co and Ava’s Fund to help raise local support. I am certain the clients we have referred couldn’t manage without them, and knowing they are receiving all round support is extremely rewarding.
When the job/role is hard, what one thing reminds you to keep on keeping on?
Trying to support grieving clients can be extremely challenging, whilst trying to remain professional. However the satisfaction of helping clients and hopefully in achieving a positive outcome for them is the motivation to continue. The hardest thing is knowing a client is struggling, and being unable to fix it for them.
We are in a shift change with the understanding and awareness of baby loss. What would you say to someone just starting out in a job/role associated to baby loss?
Keep trying to find ways of raising awareness, supporting baby loss initiatives, and make sure you provide empathy and you are a human at the end of the phone to those families trying to live after loss.
It’s likely that a newly bereaved parent is reading this. What would you like to say to them?
This is as bad as it gets and I am so sorry you are going through this. Nothing will fix it, but you are not alone and we will do all we can to support you.
“There are clear guidelines and regulations that have been set, and by following them it will help to reduce avoidable baby loss.”
We have some ambitious targets for baby loss currently in the UK. What are your specific hopes for the future in terms of maternity and baby loss?
That simple failings are not missed – there are clear guidelines and regulations that have been set, and by following them it will help to reduce avoidable baby loss. The simple message of sharing the risks of baby loss during pregnancy to expectant mothers is not something that should be avoided as it is a frightening prospect, but if mothers are aware of the factors to look out for and when to seek help, and to be confident in their concerns, and trust their instincts to seek help, clinicians should listen.
Thank you so much for taking part in this interview series. Lastly, before we finish – Is there anything else about you or your job/role that you’d like to let people know about?
If we can help in making people aware of the support that is available to them in the various networks, please do just contact us. Also, if you think you may have suffered either avoidable baby loss or injury, to contact us for free and independent advice and we will try to see if we can provide answers and support.
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This blog post is part of an ongoing spotlight on those working in baby loss. To read more from It Still Takes a Village series, visit the hub page here.