Baby Jayden sits on the lap of proud mum Nicola Hamer, oblivious to the fact that he's famous. Jayden is, as far as we know, the first baby born in Salford in 2012. But he's also living, gurgling proof of the need for Salford to have its own fully functioning Maternity Unit…
"This story needs to be told, Salford people need to know that this could have been them, it could have been their grand daughter who was born on the bathroom floor" says Jayden's great granddad, Phil Hamer, who himself has seven children and 13 grand children... "She could have lost the baby, anything could have happened…"
Nicola Hamer, from Pendleton, was pregnant with her first baby and under the care of Hope Maternity Unit until it was shut down late last year, after a big campaign to Save the Salfordian (see here). She was transferred to North Manchester General Hospital in Crumpsall and her baby was set to be one of hundreds who would no longer be born in Salford. But the events on New Year's Eve took a dramatic turn…
Nicola thought she was in labour so called an ambulance which took her to North Manchester General, only to be sent home a short time later.
"They said I wasn't dilated, which I was, and they told me to go home and get in the shower" Nicola recalls "It was five minutes past midnight on New Year's Eve and there were no buses running, and no-one from the family could give me a lift as they had all been drinking. Luckily a taxi driver who had dropped someone off saw me in pain and took me home. If he hadn't had been there I probably would have given birth on the pavement…"
Nicola, by this time accompanied by her mum Sarah, eventually got home, poured a shower but went into labour almost straight away on the bathroom floor. She phoned an ambulance and a small paramedic vehicle attended, followed by a bigger ambulance.
"When the paramedics got there I was crowning with him and he just shot out" says Nicola "They had to catch him or he would have ended up on the floor near the toilet."
Jayden was born at three minutes past 4am and, worried about the baby's temperature, the paramedics phoned midwives at North Manchester General but there were none available. So the ambulance took mum and baby back to North Manchester General and the night's dramatic events had a happy ending.
But great granddad Phil and Nicola are not impressed with the post-Hope arrangements and are convinced that if Hope Maternity Unit had still been open the birth would have been less traumatic.
"In my opinion, with it being New Year's Eve they should have kept her in for monitoring, and they should have made sure they had midwives on call at such a time" says Phil "Maybe because it was New Year's Eve they couldn't get enough staff, but the idea is that we have a service and that service simply wasn't there when it was needed.
"I'm a bit shocked because it was nearly midnight on New Year's Eve and she didn't have enough money for a taxi, there were no buses and it's her first birth, so they should have given her a bit more support to get home" he adds "I think that was wrong."
"Without a doubt, if Hope had been open properly it would have been quite simple to go from the house to there, whereas to go from the house to Crumpsall was difficult" Phil explains "Hope is more local and, if the worst would have come to the worst, I would have carried her there. And I could have carried her quicker to Hope than the time it took for the ambulance to get Crumpsall!"
His sentiments are echoed by Nicola…
"I know I would have got seen at Hope and would have stayed in at Hope" she explains "It should still be open really."
The Salford Star contacted the Salford Royal Hospital (Hope) to get a comment but we were told that the midwife led unit there is now run by St Mary's in Manchester, and a spokesperson there told us that, unless Sarah had elected to have a home birth (which she hadn't) it was nothing to do with them.
"What this brings to my mind is that Salford still needs a maternity unit and it's very important that we have it" says Phil "I know how long it took to get to the hospital, it's very difficult to find and the signposting is absolutely shocking. I think it would have taken a minimum of 35 minutes to get there, whereas Hope was maybe four or five minutes. They say you can make North Manchester and Bolton hospitals in these times, but it's rubbish What we need is our own maternity unit re-opening with a full service. Not just a midwife service, a full service.
"When Sarah got back to North Manchester with the baby the service was really good and they looked after her but we need Hope" he adds "Salford is expanding with the BBC, and if it's expanding why are we moving services out of Salford? They're integrating things into Manchester and it's happening more and more. Why should we delegate our services to other places?
"This could have been a person who's come down from London to work at the BBC…had this happened there would have been hell to pay, you can bet on it. Can you imagine… `BBC whoever has baby on the floor in Salford'? It would be front page news but because we're just normal Salford people…"
In a final twist to the story, North Manchester General Hospital insisted that that the first baby born in Salford in 2012 was registered as being born in Manchester…
"He wasn't born in Manchester, he was born in Salford" says Nicola "So we're going to Salford to register him…"
A spokesman for The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said:
"Following a telephone call from a relative of this lady, the midwife advised that Ms Hamer should attend the maternity assessment unit at North Manchester General Hospital. Ms Hamer was offered a bed but declined. It is not our practice to pay for taxis to take patients home. As Ms Hamer lives outside our community midwifery area, paramedics would usually request attendance by a midwife from Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. We have not received a formal complaint from Ms Hamer but should she wish to contact us, we will be more than happy to discuss any further concerns or outstanding issues."
* Nicola's mum, Sarah, who was with her at the hospital disputes that Nicola was offered a bed...
"There was no way she was offered a bed otherwise I would have made her stay in the hospital" she says
Photos by Steven Speed