The real terrifying story of how Sophie Wessex and her baby cheated death - and why it still haunts her | Mail Online
21 March 2014
The real terrifying story of how Sophie Wessex and her baby cheated death - and why it still haunts her
Sophie Wessex is usually serenity itself. Quiet and friendly, yes, but always in control. An elegant, regal figure no more prone to emotional outbursts than the Queen herself. So when the Countess was pictured, red eyes brimful of tears and hugging a midwife in a Surrey hospital earlier this week, it was both touching and shocking.
Her breakdown, though, was entirely understandable. For she was returning to Frimley Park Hospital, where ten years ago she nearly died while giving birth to her first child, Louise. As the Countess of Wessex opened the hospital’s new neo-natal unit, she said: ‘The service you can provide can literally make the difference between life and death. I can attest to that.’ Now, for the first time, the Mail can reveal the full story of how
Sophie’s life hung in the balance that day — and how it has profoundly affected her as a mother. ‘It was utterly traumatic, and in some ways Sophie has never got over it,’ says a friend. ‘It completely reshaped her character and affected how she relates to her children.’ More practical than emotionally effusive, the repercussions mean Sophie is now hyper-alert to danger and very keen on organisation and order.
At the beginning of November 2003, with a month still to go before her due date, everything seemed fine. So fine, in fact, that Edward went to Mauritius — a 12-hour flight — for an official visit. But at about 6pm on Saturday November 8, Sophie was struck down with crippling abdominal pains at Bagshot Park, the couple’s forbidding Victorian pile in Surrey.
By 8pm she was in agony, and staff called the Queen’s obstetrician, Marcus Setchell, who instructed them to get Sophie to the nearest hospital immediately. They dialled 999 and awaited an ambulance. Yet there was confusion over the call, and police officers, rather than medics, turned up, leading to a potentially calamitous 30-minute delay. The lives of Sophie and her baby were hanging perilously in the balance. Edward had been contacted in Mauritius, but there was no way he could return until the next day.
At Frimley Park Hospital, four miles from Bagshot, a medical team was placed on stand-by. When Sophie arrived they realised she needed an emergency caesarean. She was showing signs of acute placental abruption, in which the placental lining separates from the uterus. It can result in colossal blood loss for the mother, while babies may become distressed and can be stillborn. Sophie’s condition was so advanced that it was threatening to kill both her and her baby.
Marcus Setchell had made it to the hospital from London at lightning speed, and oversaw the operation, which was carried out by surgeon Sukhpal Singh, gynaecologist Anne Deans and midwife Adrienne Price. The moment the baby was born, weighing just 4lb 9oz, she was taken from her mother and rushed to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London, for special care.
Sophie, meanwhile, was just 15 minutes from death.
She was losing massive amounts of blood and had slipped into a semi-conscious state. It took a massive blood transfusion — around nine pints — before she regained any kind of stability. For the next 24 hours she stayed at Frimley, sedated, alone and distressed at being apart from her baby, of whom she’d had only a glimpse.
Edward didn’t make it back to Britain until the following evening. He had no idea how serious the situation was, and ‘went as white as a sheet’ when he found out his wife nearly died
and his baby was in a specialist unit.