Tommy’s blog, 17/03/2017
Paulo and Melinda Almeida became Tommy’s supporters after the team at St Thomas’ Hospital in London played an important role in the birth of both of their children.
They have recently become founding members of Tommy’s25, our new giving club which brings together a group of visionary supporters who have committed to shaping the future of pregnancy research by donating at least £25,000 to Tommy’s over five years.
Here’s their story
In 2011 Melinda fell pregnant with their first daughter Olivia. She wasn’t expecting anything but a straightforward pregnancy but at eight weeks, Melinda’s midwife referred her to Tommy’s Preterm Surveillance Clinic at St Thomas’ Hospital for further monitoring.
At 22 weeks a scan revealed a shortening of Melinda’s cervix, a problem that can lead to late miscarriage and preterm birth.
‘While we were terribly frightened by the situation, we were hugely comforted by the care of the Tommy’s team and especially Prof. Andrew Shennan. We didn’t realise until a few weeks later just how lucky we were, as this was the only clinic of its type in the UK if not also the first of its kind in the world.’
Tommy’s researchers have found that using an abdominal cervical stitch can significantly improve the baby’s chance of remaining in the womb for longer.
The MAVRIC study was working to discover whether the abdominal stitch is more effective in stopping premature birth and improving a baby’s chance of surviving.
The study found that women who had an abdominal stitch were more likely to have a baby that survived, as well as one born after 32 weeks of pregnancy.
At the time the stitch was a new technique being pioneered at the clinic and Melinda was treated immediately. At just over 24 weeks Melinda’s waters broke. Olivia was born a day later on 16th April 2012.
Olivia was just on the threshold of survival - she spent five weeks in intensive care and a total of 14 weeks in the hospital.
Her early start has done little to hold her back and Olivia is now a happy healthy little girl, enjoying school and getting ready to celebrate her fifth birthday.
In Melinda’s second pregnancy, the team at the Preterm Surveillance Clinic, especially Dr Natasha Hezelgrave, cared for her right from the start. This gave Melinda and Paulo a great deal of reassurance that this pregnancy would have the best possible outcome.
Melinda was given a precautionary abdominal cervical stitch at 12 weeks and their son Max was born at 34 weeks by caesarean in June 2014.
Since the birth of their two beautiful children, Paulo has raised over £8,000 for Tommy’s by running two Royal Parks Half Marathons. His and Melinda's dedication to Tommy’s25 will help us ensure that the research they benefited from can reach more families across the UK.
We want to wish little Olivia a very happy birthday from everyone here at Tommy’s and say a massive thank you to Melinda and Paulo for their support over the years.
If you’re interested in learning more about becoming part of Tommy’s 25 you can email Kate Beck on [email protected] for further details.
Tommy’s Preterm Surviellance Clinic is part of our London research centre. You can read more about the inspiring work being done into the causes and finding ways to prevent premature birth, miscarriage and pre-eclampsia.
We've kept the eye mask he wore, to remind us of everything he made it through.
"I hope our story gives couples some reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel because after 9 miscarriages we have our miracle on the way"
Born weighing less than a bag of sugar over twenty-one years ago, Harriet has come a long way to today, in her final year of University, writing her dissertation on premature infants.