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1 September 2017

'Why the start of the school term is a special day in our house'

While some may be dreading the first day back at school after the summer next week, it is a date to cherish for Clare Braybrook and her daughter Emily.

On Tuesday (September 5) five-year-old Emily will start Year 1 at Hatton Park Primary School, a milestone Clare says they would never have reached had it not been for the skill of Papworth doctors who saved both of their lives when Clare was 31 weeks pregnant. 

Teacher Clare, 37, was travelling back from a netball game with pupils on Thursday, January 12, 2012 when she suddenly felt an agonising pain in her chest. Back at home she slept for about an hour, but when she woke the pain was worse. She arrived at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the next day she was told her aorta – the main artery that pumps blood from the heart – had a tear. Without immediate surgery she could die.

She was blue-lighted to Papworth where Consultant Surgeon Sam Nashef performed life-saving surgery after Emily had been delivered by emergency caesarean moments before.

“It still feels very real, and like it was yesterday,” said Clare, now an assistant headteacher at St Ivo School in St Ives.

“I can remember everything that happened very, very clearly. I feel very grateful to Papworth. When I think back to the whole of the last five years and what I’ve done and what I’ve achieved – it seems a little bit surreal. How could I have managed to do all of these things? I was at death’s door.

“I can’t thank Papworth enough. Emily is incredibly lucky to have her mum be able to walk with her to school on the first day of term. Things could have been quite different.”

After her year of maternity leave came to an end, Clare, who lives in Longstanton with husband Patrick and Emily, was eager to get back to work.

“I felt like I needed to go back prove something to myself – maybe that I was still me after having the heart operation.

“I’m well. I saw my consultant a few weeks ago and I asked her if I could start running again and she said ‘yes’, as long as I was sensible about it.”

Emily, who started reception last year, still asks her mum about her dramatic birth.

 “She does talk about it – because she can see the scar. Quite recently she came to the hospital with me for a check-up and we walked down the road where I came, and where she left hospital. We took a picture of her outside. She knows that babies aren’t usually born at Papworth.”


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