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Kingsbury mum's childbirth terror inspires campaign for infection screening

PUBLISHED: 16:52 05 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:21 09 September 2019

Anna Santos-Witkowska with baby son Olly when he was ill with Group B Strep shortly after birth. Picture: Anna Santos-Witkowska

Anna Santos-Witkowska with baby son Olly when he was ill with Group B Strep shortly after birth. Picture: Anna Santos-Witkowska

Archant

"Part of me didn't think my fears were going to be realised. The midwives started to talk about numbers dropping - his oxygen intake - that's when they called the doctor."

Olly Santos-Witkowski. Picture: Anna Santos-WitkowskaOlly Santos-Witkowski. Picture: Anna Santos-Witkowska

When Anna Santos-Witkowska, 29, gave birth to her son Olly in June, all seemed well. But within hours Olly was in intensive care - he had developed pneumonia and sepsis, and had a collapsed lung.

This happened because he had contracted Group B Strep (GBS), an infection passed on by his mother during labour.

Olly, thankfully, made a full recovery - but mum Anna is acutely aware of how bad things could have been, and now she's desperate to raise awareness of GBS.

Anna, from Kingsbury, told the Kilburn Times: "I want to raise awareness of GBS as much as possible. I had no idea at all when it happened to us. It happens to so many families. We were very lucky: we came out and my son is fine. But so many people after either have a lifelong disability or even lose their baby.

Baby Olly suffered from sepsis and pneumonia in the hours after his birth due to a Group B Strep infection. Picture: Anna Santos-WitkowskaBaby Olly suffered from sepsis and pneumonia in the hours after his birth due to a Group B Strep infection. Picture: Anna Santos-Witkowska

"For a good five weeks afterwards I was going through a kind of PTSD. I think it was just terrifying.

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"I want to offer support for other families going through this who might need someone to talk to."

GBS bacteria are carried in the gut or vagina of many adults without problem, but can be transmitted to babies during labour - and according to national charity Group B Strep Support, it's the single most common life-threatening infection in newborns.

Olly Santos-Witkowski. Picture: Anna Santos-WitkowskaOlly Santos-Witkowski. Picture: Anna Santos-Witkowska

For Anna, husband Romek and Olly, what first seemed normal soon became terrfiying.

Anna added: "After four hours, I had him on me, I was trying to get him to feed. He was trying to cry but he couldn't cry. His face was pale."

Rapidly, the medical staff discovered Olly was gravely ill and rushed him to intensive care.

Anna said: "When I saw my baby, covered in tubes, inside his incubator, I was terrified."

Anna Santos-Witkowska with baby son Olly when he was ill with Group B Strep shortly after birth. Picture: Anna Santos-WitkowskaAnna Santos-Witkowska with baby son Olly when he was ill with Group B Strep shortly after birth. Picture: Anna Santos-Witkowska

Olly recovered, but others are not so lucky - in the UK GBS kills one baby a week and leaves another with a long-term disability.

Anna is calling for all expectant mums to be screened, as is normal in countries like the USA and France. She added: "I wouldn't wish what we went through on anyone."

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