HEARTLESS: Grafton mother’s anguish over border baby battle
FOUR days after she gave birth to her second child at Grafton Base Hospital, Caitlan Taylor held her baby boy for the first time, 200km away from home.
"When I picked him up, I didn't feel anything. It was like looking at a stranger," she said.
Ms Taylor was separated from her newborn son after the birth when he was flown to Gold Coast University Hospital, starting a chain of events she has described as cold and heartless.
The ordeal started on August 18 when Ms Taylor went to a routine 35-week scan at the hospital.
"I thought everything was normal, but they were feeling around and it was tender on one side, so they got the doctor in," she said.
Within an hour, she was rushed into surgery for an emergency caesarean and baby Huxlee was born.
Two hours after the birth, Ms Taylor woke from the surgery, in extreme pain and recovering from heavy blood loss. She was sedated and unable to hold her baby.
To make matters worse, baby Huxlee was struggling to breathe, and after unsuccessfully trying to find a bed at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, baby Huxlee was transferred to Gold Coast University Hospital in Queensland.
"The nurses at Grafton hospital were amazing, they did absolutely everything they could to make sure it was all okay," Ms Taylor said.
"They flew down, and they said I was unable to go with him because of my condition, and they promised me they'd come get me tomorrow so I could be with the baby. They absolutely promised me."
After an anxious wait until 2am to hear confirmation Huxlee had arrived safely at the Gold Coast - which he had in fact done three hours earlier - Ms Taylor fell asleep.
The next morning she woke early, determined to see her baby.
"They never said I couldn't, but they said I'd have to quarantine for two weeks and not see the baby, and the baby was close to being stable enough to leave, so there was no point," Ms Taylor said.
"They said we're not going to pay for your transport.
"The thing that shocked me - they were referring to him as number 16. Normally they'll say baby Taylor or similar, but instead, I was in tears, calling mum saying they're just calling him baby 16."
Ms Taylor waited in vain for news of her baby, fighting to get her baby returned to Grafton Base Hospital, when they rang a media outlet in Brisbane for help.
"We rang them as they'd done a story on another family from Casino who we knew through greyhounds," she said.
"Then we got a phone call and they said 'Number 16 has left our care and is now at Tweed hospital'."
With blood still passing through urine, and four days after what had been described to her as a "rough" caesarean, Ms Taylor was driven by a wardsman and a maternity nurse to Tweed Heads Hospital to meet her baby.
"I got taken to meet my baby, and there were four babies lined up, and the nurse asked 'Do you want to go to your baby?'," Ms Taylor said.
"And I said to her 'I don't know what my baby looks like. I haven't held him.
"And the nurse started crying.
"The first couple of days are meant to be when you bond with your baby - you have that time and you come together.
"When I picked him up I didn't feel anything, it was like looking at a stranger."
Following a lonely night in Tweed hospital, baby Huxlee started to feed and they were assessed as able to go back to Grafton Base Hospital. An ambulance that was supposed to pick them up at 8am didn't arrive until 3pm, with the team saying they were near end of shift and couldn't make the journey.
Thankfully, the Tweed Heads maternity unit organised another wardsman and maternity nurse to drive them back to Grafton, where they arrived at 10am.
A spokesperson for Queensland Health said that they could not comment on individual cases, but understood and sympathised it was a difficult time to navigate.
"Queensland's current border restrictions are in place for one purpose - to save lives. We never deny essential, emergency health care to those who need it," they said.
" If a child is in Queensland for medical care whose parents are elsewhere, the parents will be allowed into Queensland but will be required to quarantine.
"If the parents enter Queensland, they are allowed to leave quarantine to see their child in hospital, provided they wear PPE and are supervised at all times."
The spokesperson said they appreciated there are challenges during this time, however they needed protect our communities, especially the most vulnerable members of the community.
"These are tough decisions, but we have to very cautious, especially in our hospitals," they said.
Chief Executive Northern NSW Local Health District Wayne Jones said that due to the Queensland border closure, and border zone restrictions, the Tweed Hospital was the most appropriate facility to receive both mother and baby initially.
"At the time of the transfer back to NSW, the clinical advice was that a direct transfer to Grafton could impose a risk to the baby," he said.
" A clinical decision was made to have the paediatric team at The Tweed Hospital care for the baby overnight. Following review by the paediatric team the following morning, the baby was able to be transferred back to Grafton.
"While the border closure has created challenges for medical transfers, our staff are working tirelessly to ensure patients in Northern NSW continue to have access to the care they require."
Ms Taylor said that she had nothing but praise for her treatment in NSW, but said that the treatment and words used by Queensland Health authorities upset her greatly.
"I was sitting in hospital, and listening to (government officials) refer to me as the lady with the NSW baby," she said.
"And hearing them say that Queensland hospitals were for Queensland people, I was just watching it crying.
"They were so cold about it, I don't know how they can be so heartless. It's really scarred me, I'm traumatised by it.
Several weeks on, and baby Huxlee is powering on, feeding well and they are trying to settle back into a normal life.
"He's definitely a strong one," Ms Taylor said. "I just wanted to put it out there so no one has to go through what I did."