Bex Forrest, 37, from Worcester tells her incredible story...
As doctors pulled out my baby daughter, I expected to hear a little cry to mark her arrival into the world.
But she didn’t make a peep.
All I heard was the frantic shuffle of feet as the doctors moved quickly, barking orders at each other.
‘Why isn’t she crying?’ I asked, dazed.
‘It’ll be OK,’ croaked my husband Martin, 44. But he looked equally terrified as he gripped my hand.
Then a nurse explained that baby Willow’s heart had stopped, and the doctors were frantically trying to resuscitate her.
Meanwhile, I’d suddenly started haemorrhaging.
Confused, I couldn’t understand it – my pregnancy had gone so well. No problems had shown up on any scans.
I’d arrived at Gloucester Hospital three days earlier, on 17 April 2015. Despite being in constant agony from the contractions, I still wasn’t dilating.
On 20 April, I agreed to a Caesarean. But as soon as the first cut was made, the emergency began.
Now, after the longest 11 minutes of my life, doctors finally established a heartbeat and whisked poorly Willow in an incubator to High Intensity.
‘I didn’t get to hold her,’ I wept to Martin. When would I see her?
Shortly after, a doctor soon returned to explain the whole shocking situation.
Our daughter’s heart had stopped beating before I gave birth. She was dead for eight minutes!
‘Willow’s brain was starved of oxygen for a long time,’ the doctor said. ‘There’s a serious risk she might be brain damaged.’
Devastated, I burst into tears. I felt so helpless, couldn’t understand why this had happened.
Neither could the doctors, but they’d reached out to St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol. And, within the hour, a specialist team arrived to treat our girl.
They explained that they’d use revolutionary cooling therapy to decrease Willow’s body temperature to 33.5 degrees, to reduce the risk of disability and prevent further brain damage. She was basically about to be frozen for three days!
Then doctors would slowly warm her back up to the body’s usual temperature.
Whisked off to Bristol, staff tried to find a bed for me, too, so I could follow, but I’d have to wait a few days.
‘You go with Willow,’ I told Martin. ‘She needs one of us.’
He wanted to stay with me, but I insisted.
‘She knows your voice,’ I said. ‘Please keep speaking to her, tell her you’re there, that she’ll be OK.’
After, sitting in my hospital bed in Gloucester, I felt useless. I was desperate to see my baby.
My mum Jeanette, 65, and sister Lucinda, 33, came to keep me company while I recovered. But, after just two days, I discharged myself.
‘I have to see Willow,’ I told them.
Doctors advised waiting a few more hours, but I was fine – and determined to see my baby.
So Martin picked me up and took me to our daughter’s bedside in Bristol. I sobbed when I saw 7lb 8oz Willow, hooked up to so many tubes and beeping machines. Our frozen princess.
‘Mummy’s here,’ I soothed, stroking her tiny hand.
My heart shattered.
‘What if she doesn’t pull through?’ I asked Martin tearfully.
‘She will,’ he smiled confidently. ‘She doesn’t have a choice!’
After the third day, doctors gradually began to raise Willow’s core temperature, and soon she was free of her special cooling suit.
Martin and I were over the moon when we finally got to hold our precious baby in our arms for the first time.
But there was no way to tell whether she had any lasting brain damage, or if she’d suffer any disabilities. All we could do was wait.
But, against the odds, Willow has fought back. Hit all her important milestones.
Now 17 months old, Willow’s going from strength to strength, and has grown into a happy, healthy little girl.
So far, she’s shown no signs of any physical or mental disabilities, and has excelled in her developmental checks.
She started walking before she was a year old, and is constantly full of beans – always keeping me on my toes!
Martin and I are forever grateful to the doctors who saved our precious ice queen.