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‘I never would have made it to Aberdeen’: Sullivan family said Dr Gray’s made the difference in latest birth

The Sullivans with the new baby
Zoe Sullivan says she "never would have made it to Aberdeen," to give birth.

Even with the experience of eleven kids already under her belt, number 12 could have caused problems for Lossiemouth mum Zoe if she had been forced to travel to Aberdeen.

Zoe Sullivan, of Britain’s Biggest Family fame, said that her newest daughter’s birth –from contraction to delivery – lasted about 40 minutes.

She was able to deliver at Dr Gray’s Hospital on Thursday evening in Elgin, and the process was so easy that she suggested to the midwives “Let’s do it again!”

Baby Sullivan in a peach blanket
Baby Florence was delivered at Dr Gray’s in Elgin. 

But Dr Gray’s has faced cuts to its maternity services, meaning many hopeful parents have to travel to Aberdeen to deliver.

And Zoe could have been in the same boat. After a brief scare during labour, she said her day could have turned out very differently if Dr Gray’s hadn’t been an option.

Sullivan family a ‘prime example’ of the benefits of Dr Gray’s

The family’s newest addition, Florence, was born at 6:22 pm, and Zoe said that she went into labour somewhere around 5:45 pm.

“I’m just so grateful that I got to have her at Dr Gray’s.

“So she was literally like 40 minutes. I never would have made it to Aberdeen. So this is the prime example of the situation that we’re in, is that some people will not make it.”

Zoe even said that there was a brief moment when there might have been cause for a transfer. At one point, the midwives noticed meconium – essentially an infant’s first poop – in her water.

It normally comes after delivery, but can cause problems if the baby passes it in the womb and then breathes it in.

Zoe said that it could have been a sign that she’d need to go to Aberdeen, but the midwives on staff at Dr Gray’s knew exactly what to do for the Sullivan Family.

“Nothing fazes them at all. As soon as there was meconium in the water they sprang straight into action.

“This is why I’ve said time and time again… there’s no reason for Gray’s to be downgraded. We have the best, we have just a fantastic team as anywhere.

“I’d trust them with my life and they know exactly what they’re doing.”

A lot can happen between Elgin and Aberdeen

The drive from Dr Gray’s and Aberdeen can take the better part of two hours. And that’s without factoring in traffic or the high stress of rushing to deliver a baby.

Earlier this year, another local mum shared her traumatic experience of having to deliver in a lay-by on the A96.

Andrea Naylor had originally planned to deliver her baby at Dr Gray’s. During her labour, however, she was deemed “high-risk” and transferred to Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.

The ambulance didn’t make it in time and had to pull over for Mrs Naylor to deliver en route.

A decade-long wait for full services at Dr Gray’s

Dr Gray’s was downgraded from a consultant-led to midwife-led maternity services in 2018. Because of the change, all “high-risk” births in the area are transferred to Aberdeen.

That means that not everyone has the option of delivering at Dr Gray’s the way the Sullivan family did.

Decision-makers at the time called it a temporary downgrade due to staff shortages.

But campaigners have been battling ever since to see full services restored.

This month, after a long stretch without any definitive timeline, Health Secretary Hamza Yousaf warned it could be a decade before a consultant-led maternity unit returns to Dr Gray’s in Elgin.

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