“I am honoured to be a Volunteer Ambassador for GBSS.
In my spare time I do what I can to support the charity to raise funds and awareness.
I first became aware of Group B Strep Support after my daughter had spent her first few weeks in Neonatal Intensive Care with overwhelming sepsis caused by group B Strep. Thankfully, she recovered but I had lots of questions and once Emily was home and healthy I took to Google to try and find out more about what had made her so poorly.
The GBSS website proved to be the most informative place to gather all the information I needed. It gave me the facts and figures, it provided answers as to what had caused Emily to be so ill. If only I had known about the charity BEFORE my daughter was born, I could have potentially prevented her from becoming infected. And this is the fundamental reason why I wanted to help. I wanted to try and get the information that would have been so crucial in avoiding Emily’s illness, out to other families.
It is hard to comprehend that here in the UK, a country with a world-renowned health service, families are still being told that the bacteria that caused their baby to become ill could have been identified and preventative steps could have been taken to minimise the risk of their baby being affected. I have no doubt in my mind that, had I known there was a risk to my baby I would have asked to be screened for GBS.
So with the guidance of the charity, I contacted my local media. The journalists I have spoken to have been incredibly helpful, publishing various interviews and articles with supporting photographs in 3 local newspapers. GBSS have provided press releases which give the journalists the bones of the story which is then fleshed out with the personal aspect of my experience. It is important to try and keep GBS in the media spotlight as I believe that every time an article is published, it may reach a family to whom the subject has a relevance that was missing before. A newly pregnant woman who may have skipped through the article previously may sit up and think “Hey, this relates to me”. That kind of awareness is vital.
I also had an interview on a local radio station programme which was debating the pros and cons of screening. A little nerve-wracking to be on live radio but worth the nerves to know that it was raising awareness.
Another great outlet is of course social media. Mention GBS on any Mums forum on Facebook and there are two types of response:
1 – Women who have never heard of GBS and want to ensure their baby will be protected.
2 – Women who have had a baby who was affected or know somebody who has.
I tweeted Dr Christian Jessen about GBS and that tweet resulted in a heated discussion between various health professionals!
With further guidance from GBSS, who provided an outline template letter, I contacted my local MP to ask for his support. Don’t be scared of politicians – they are here to represent us! My MP was extremely helpful. After writing to him, he invited me to meet him personally to discuss the issue further. He was interested in Emily’s story and was keen to help. He later invited me, together with a representative from the charity, to the House of Commons and he subsequently tabled an Early Day Motion and asked Parliamentary Questions on the subject.
After the General Election in 2015 I find myself with a new MP so I have recently met with him to see if he will also support the cause for screening. Again, he was very approachable and seems keen to help. He offered to write to the Health Secretary and said he would be willing to table some Parliamentary Questions, so I am hopeful that he will continue to offer assistance.
Raising funds as well as awareness is also important as the charity relies on donations and fundraising to function. It’s always hard asking for money, but people’s generosity never fails to astound me, especially considering we are all bombarded with requests for donations and sponsorship for so many worthwhile causes.
I was honoured to be accepted as a Volunteer Ambassador for the charity and have found my role to be educational, humbling and rewarding in equal measure.