"Listening to the Voices of Shropshire Families"
(views and comments on Health Visitors in Shropshire)
Question #1: How did you first come in contact with a health visitor?
Couple #1: Oh my God, that would be when I was on my knees crying because I had a child and he was probably about 4 or 5 weeks old and we'd had him constantly quiet 24/7. We'd been to the doctors and they said it was colic but I sort of knew it was something else and I basically got to the stage where I couldn't cope any more so I contacted the Health Visitor.
Mother #2: I had a breast abscess because I got a blocked milk duct and I ended up with a breast abscess which I left it too long and should have gone to the doctors sooner really, which I didn't, and eventually it was the size of a golf ball, basically!
Then I went to Shrewsbury and my health visitor she rung the hospital up for me and got the breastfeeding specialist for me, to come and talk to me. She made sure I had someone there, as I was still breastfeeding my daughter at the time and she was only 4 weeks, and I took her with me, obviously, as I was still breastfeeding at the time and I didn't want to leave her at home.
I took her with me and the health visitor made sure I had someone there with me to help look after my daughter; someone there to help talk me through everything that was going on.
Father #1: My son was 4 weeks early and that brings an awful lot of pressure onto the parent -we're first time parents- and you think you're experienced, and you're experienced with life but really, you kind of come to it with a blank canvas.
Mother #3: When I came home initially, my husband was here for 3 weeks and then he went away for work as he's in the Navy. When he deployed away, I was completely on my own, with three small children and I was just a wreck!
Mother #4: My son, Adam, was born two-and-a-half years ago and when he was born he had group B strep meningitis which means that he was in neonatal intensive care, on life-support for his first three weeks of life. By the time I was discharged from hospital as well, because I also had complications, we were effectively an emotional wreck and coming home; we just needed some kind of support.
In the intervening two-and-a-half years, it has become clear that Adam is significantly hearing impaired, he is significantly visually impaired, he is severely asthmatic, he's been in and out of hospital more times than I can count; it is just now been realised that he is autistic as well, and he will be going to the bridge special needs assessment next week. To put that in context, we've had a health visitor who has been with us every step of the way.
Question #2: What were you preconceptions of the health visitor service?
Mother #5: Yeah, I had a basic idea, but she cleared a lot of things out for me and made it a lot more clearer what I needed to do, and what I needed to change, what I didn't need to do and just stuff like that, really. She helps every time she comes; I love her coming - I look forward to it really! [laughs]
She gives me something to talk about with someone who knows what they're talking about, really. I thought they were - I thought they'd come into your house and they'd tell you what to do and that you'd have to do it their way or no way, whereas Jo - she came in and said "I'm not going to tell you what to do"; she said "You don't have to follow what I do...", she goes "I'll only advise you on what you *can do* to improve"
Father #1: I said jokingly, "There isn't a series on TV called `Call the Health Visitor`"? So I hadn't really got an idea or a concept of what this particular person would be, so I was able to see straight away that the health visitor actually, was a health professional with medical background with experience in these fields.
Couple #1: I always thought they were busy-bodies [laughs]. That they'd come round, stick their nose in, tell you what to do with the baby [laughs], yeah but that's totally untrue, totally untrue. They have done nothing but support me and my partner and baby Harry and the advice they have given us has basically meant that we became a family - a happy family.
Question #3: How did they help you?
Father #1: The home visit from the health visiting side was so important, to provide that sort of support, backup and just to give you a little bit of reassurance that, you know, you're not alone; you aren't the first person sat there saying "How on earth do I do this; what are we supposed to be doing?"
Mother #6: Very helpful, very calming and just completely reassured me that I was not out of the ordinary, that this has happened before and it can be fixed, and so I kind of went from somebody who was literally at the end of my tether... I came away thinking "We can fix this"! He's gone from a baby who would wake several times in the night or wake once and be awake for 3 hours; there was no consistency, no pattern to it and that's the thing that we found most challenging - we didn't know how to deal with the fact that we couldn't predict what he was going to do to a child that we put to bed at 7:30 - 7:45 at night and most days we don't hear a peep from him until 6:00, gone 6.
Father #2: I mean Jo has helped us so much - anything we've needed, she said she's given us her mobile number to contact her any time. Any advice, she's always given us plenty of advice; as I say, you build up a friendship and it just becomes easier to talk to her in the end.
Mother #5: She tells me about what progress she should be doing, and if she's achieving it, and just little things like that, really. She helps me with her weight (I always like her to weigh her when she comes!) and she helps me about when I'm weaning her: what solids I should be giving her, what I shouldn't be giving her, and how much I should and what I shouldn't, basically.
Mother #3: I needed that "Right, here you go - this is what you have to do" because and as well as in my head, I kept thinking: "Well I've got two; I've got an excuse, I've got two - it is going to be harder" - but it doesn't have to be harder.
Mother #4: The fact that Wendy has been at the other end of the phone, at the other end of an email on occasion, or sat on my settee more times than I can count, and when I've had those incredibly difficult diagnoses or the days when I'm just having a meltdown because it's just too stressful because it's an incredibly difficult journey, I've known that I've been able to pick up the phone, often in tears to Wendy, and just say, "Help!" - and she's there.
Father #1: My health visitor, first thing she did was tell us who she was, you know, what she'd done, her history, where she'd been a mid-wife and nurse, you know, really put us at ease; gave us a full picture of what her background was, what skills she was bringing here so we didn't have any... there was no ambiguity about what she was going to contribute. The service and the level of professionalism has made me feel extremely comfortable and confident moving forward, from week 6 onwards.
Woman #1: She was really down to earth, no pre-judgement. She gave us a lot of advice because it was the first time I'd had to deal with a baby as well so I was learning along with my daughter on how to bring up a baby (because my daughter was 3 when she was adopted), so it was a learning curve for me as well and sometime I felt the questions I was asking were stupid but I was never... I never felt stupid asking. My daughter's taken heed of what Wendy's had to say; she's helped reinforce things that I've told my daughter to do. My daughter finds her really approachable which is helpful because especially with learning problems, sometimes they can be made to feel stupid and she hasn't been made to feel that, and when my daughter's having problems with the breastfeeding, Wendy helped us out with that - gave us the proper advice we needed so the whole experience has been absolutely fantastic.
Couple #1: It's like we were at the end of out tether when we first started with the health visitors, when they first came round supporting us - almost 24/7, really 5-7 days a week, to now being relaxed enough to become a family where we don't have to worry about taking Harry out; we don't have to worry about him crying.
Mother #6: I'm sleeping now and after 10 months of not sleeping, just to go to bed; it's taken a couple of months but I go to bed now confident that I'm going to sleep all night. I'm much happier, yes, so generally, life for all of us has *definitely* got better, definitely!
Question #4: What would you say to others using the service?
Mother #2: They were brilliant - they've all been brilliant! They've been loads of help; anything you ever need they can help you with it. They can give you information on anything; point you in the right direction.
Mother #7: I would basically say don't stress about things really, and if you really need help, go to your health visitor -that's what they're there for- and if you find they can't do anything for you, then they will put you on the right course of finding, you know, how to improve - whatever it is you've a problem with.
Mother #5: I'd say if you have any worries or questions then always talk to your health visitor; I'm sure they're always lovely - and if you're lucky enough to get a lovely one like Jo, then you'll have no problems at all!
Mother #3: There's so many people I've wanted to say this to: believe in what your health visitors are there for; they're there for you -they're not there as a hindrance- they *are* there for us!
Father #2: There's nothing to be scared of - and she's been brilliant, haven't you?
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