Anton's Ideas

Anton Wills-Eve on world news & random ideas

Category: linked with Ben


<a href=””>Bliss</a&gt;



How many of you can guess who this is? Very few I suspect, but his connection to BLISS and my life is quite a story. For a start I will put you out of your misery by telling you that BLISS is the main national neo-natal charity in the United Kingdom. It raises millions of pounds every year to help maternity units deal with very premature or seriously ill new born babies, while supporting the parents of such children in every way possible. And the connection?


L'immagine può contenere: 1 persona

Well this photograph was taken two years ago when my then 25 year old youngest child, Benedict, was given the national fund-raiser of the year award by the charity. Here he is seen addressing some 750 distinguished health professionals on the role of the charity at the annual AGM after receiving his award. But listen to this.

The young chap you see berating all and sundry about how much more they could do for this cause had a very good reason to feel so strongly about the subject. He was born on the 17th of October 1990 exactly 23 weeks and four days after his conception. Under British law he could just have been left to die, but thanks to truly caring and humane doctors and nurses he wasn’t. He now holds two records. He is the most premature baby born in Merseyside in the last century to have reached the level of academic and public achievement he has, and is happily married. He holds a lst class hons degree in physiology, a Masters degree with merit in the archaeology of death and memory and is currently in the middle of his PhD course in digital humanities. He is on three regional National Health Service committees, including being the youngest member of the panel which assesses proposed medical research programmes to decide whether they merit public funding. But how do we know the exact date of his conception so precisely? Well my wife and I had not long recovered from influenza and we made love for the first time in seven weeks shortly before she became pregnant. The only way we could be mistaken would be if he had been even more premature. The actual birth was an incredible drama in itself.

Three days before the birth my wife had an abscess on her appendix and she was rushed into hospital but they delayed the caesarean section for a day to give Ben one slim hope of life by filling his tiny unborn lungs with an experimental drug so he could breathe outside the womb. I was told that neither of them would survive. But the combination of medical determination and expertise, total nursing commitment to saving a virtually ‘certain to die’ baby, and the prayers said over both of them by the priest who baptised him as the umbilical cord was being cut, combined to perform a medical miracle. My wife and son spent many weeks in hospital but both returned home eventually with no lasting ill-effects of their experience save that we could not have any more children. And the chap you see at the start of my story enjoys his spare time helping look after the  needs of premature children like the baby boy he is playing with here. Indeed he has even written a short book on the development of neo-natal care  in the last 150 years.

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It is thanks to BLISS and all it does that thousands of babies and their parents now have the chance of watching their children grow into the people they always hoped for. I, for one, can never thank all those people who helped us, and are helped by BLISS, for giving my wife and I a measure of ‘bliss’ that we never dreamed we would be blessed with.






<a href=””>One More Time</a>


well, connected to the prompt!

                                                           A VERY HAPPY DAY

I wonder how many of my readers know that today, November 17, is ‘World Prematurity Day’. Well for those of you who would like a happy memoir from me for once let me tell you why it means such an awful lot to me personally.

On a day in May 1990, after recovering from a prolonged bout of influenza, my wife and I were able once again to resume our usual, normal and lovely ability to make love. A few weeks later we went on holiday and were just settling down to a drink at the bar before dinner when my wife took a sip and screwed up her face. “God this stuff tastes awful”, she said, and could not face any alcohol for the rest of that evening.

As we were going to bed she suddenly had a thought. She hadn’t had a period for a while and, being 43 years old to my 48, neither of us even thought she could be pregnant. But that wake up call made her do some maths and she was seriously wondering if she could be. We had been together for some 18 years by then and always wanted a child but it just never happened. So we cut our holiday short, returned home, saw our doctor, did tests and things and the greatest news was true. She was expecting a baby.

The next twenty one weeks were spent with the usual chaos of hospital check ups, getting matternity clothes, planning the nursery, choosing names and everything an expecting couple enjoy so much. But then something went wrong. My wife started getting stomach pains. They got worse and eventually at 22 weeks she was diagnosed with appendicitis. From then on for more than a week the doctors did everything they could to treat it and protect the baby; but to no avail.

On October 17, 1990, from the scan photos we knew we were having a son, after giving her all sorts of drugs and doing everything in their power her waters broke. I signed a form to let them give experimental drugs to the baby to help his breathing and at 2.02pm they had to perform an emergency Caesarean section with little hope that the 23 week old baby would live. We had decided to call him Benedict and the chaplain baptised him as the doctors were removing him from his mother.

I lived in that remarkable place in my wife’s room for eight days while they fought to save both of them. Ben was so small he did not stretch from my finger tips to my wrist. My wife had had to have major surgery, as an abcess on her appendix burst, and was not able to visit the special care baby unit for the first week of his life, while I spent the time between each of them. But we had been very fortunate in our doctors and the care that was possible by then. Against all the odds he would not give up and we visited him every day for more than three months when he was at last fit enough to come home. Even then it was a trial as he was wired up to alarms and things to alert us if his breathing pattern changed. The little so and so seemed to realise that pulling on a tube, and thus waking up mummy and daddy, was the highlight of the night. Not ours! But let’s jump forward to today.

Our little Benedict was hardly ever any trouble through two schools and two universities. Indeed at sport and academically he was very bright and ended up with two degrees and no visible side effects at all from his prematurity except highly over-developed hearing. Last year he got married and is now working in various capacities on several committees that plan and help the health service and ‘Bliss’ the UK’s national charity of the newborn. But the really great thing about today is the appearance on Amazon of his first e-book on medical history called ‘Boxes, Bubbles and Babies’. The links to this are:

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:

It is written as a short, highly informative yet entertaining history of the care of premature babies like himself, and was inspired by his study in university laboratories of the drug which saved his life at birth.

I said at the start that this was a happy memoir, as the whole of his life has been, and I get special pleasure from knowing that everything we and the medical profession did for him against all the odds is now worth so much more than just the effort everybody who cared for him put in. I hope those of you who read his book enjoy it, and remember all premature babies and their needs. Today especially!


Digital healthcare – the innovation debate

The most important barrier in the way forward in the field of digital medicine, for use of a better term, is the personality clash amongst the top rung of helth specialists in all departments of treating and curing the sick. Too many specialists put their own medical disciplne and its importance before the needs of patients from those with appendicitis to those with terminal cancer. While the age of the surgeon as ‘god of all’ in the medical world should have disappeared some forty years ago, unfortunately it hasn’t and ego-centric magicians with scalpels instead of wands are still far too prevalent in the NHS. Yet how to replace them while waiting for the digital age to become established and do a meaningful job? At the moment the whole public perception of the health care system in this country is so low that I have to agree with Ben and say that nothing can be expected to be achieved as long as nurses are dreadfully underpaid and cleaners and porters are better off than those who actually have responsibility for keeping very sick people alive. Just think of what I have said so far and then ask yourself if there is even a risk factor attached to digital utopia in health care? There are all light years away from seeing the light of day let alone night!

A Premature Dad

November 27th

The story for today is both true and in verse. I have published it before. But it is a tale worth far more than twice the telling. November 17th, was world Premature baby day and as my youngest son was born at only 23 weeks and four days , he asked me to write a poem about what it had been like being a Premature Dad. Many people don’t believe that my wife and I can know so exactly the length of Ben’s gestation, but actually it was easy.

Ill health had prevented us from making love for some eight weeks before the day of his conception so we are in no doubt at all. The only possible doubt is that he might have been  even earlier!

The Life and Love of a Premature dad

On the seventeenth day of October in nineteen ninety

Our baby son was born, but gave mummy no pain.

The birth of a baby, what’s so unusual about that?

Well our Benedict had travelled on an earlier train

Than the one the doctors had forecast for his nativity.

He gestated for only 23 weeks and four days, before

His mummy’s appendix was infected and burst.

I was told they’d both die. Not the future I saw!

As they both were rushed to the operating theatre

I asked the chaplain to be present at Ben’s natal bed.

He was baptised within seconds of living,

And prayers For my darling wife were simultaneously said.

Paediatricians and surgeons worked for four hours

Keeping both of them alive, while expecting their loss.

I had to wait, all alone, for news of my family with only

Hope and faith to sustain me ‘neath the weight of my cross.

After three hours the chief paediatrician told me

“I hope your son will make it, but alas not your wife”.

A nurse sat beside me and then offered to take me

To see my little Ben, less than two pounds of life.

I prayed at his incubator, wired up from head to toe.

Then news of his mother,now in her own private bed.

As I looked at her face, deathly white but still breathing,

Emotion took over, an hour of tears I must have shed.

The hospital was wonderful giving me a bed in her room

So I could flit between both of them just watching how.

They battled their way through our frightening ordeal,

For I knew I could not live without both of them now.

That night I thanked God for each breath they took and

Knew saving both of them was the greatest love I’d ever felt.

From an act of pure loving, with the wife I loved so deeply,

I’d been given a second love overpowering me as I knelt

And blessed all who’d worked so hard and so long

To help deliver another child to our house and our home.

How on earth can anyone believe tiny miracles like mine

Can be left to die, by dry words in a sick legal tome?

For thirteen weeks Ben fought for each breath, and his

Mother had more operations, but who counted the cost

Of saving our son? Visiting him each day was well worth it,

For to be without him now, we knew we’d both be lost.

Last month at the age of twenty four,with two top degrees,

And his heart full of love as they walked down the aisle.

Ben married his Samantha, and I proudly rejoiced as

I saw my love shared by him. It was all in his smile.

Anton Wills-Eve