NEWS: Mum who took common epilepsy drug when pregnant reveals its ‘heartbreaking impact’ for her family

October 3, 2017
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Samantha Russell was prescribed sodium valproate during two of her six pregnancies and is now backing a public enquiry into the drug

NEWS: Mum who took common epilepsy drug when pregnant reveals its ‘heartbreaking impact’ for her family

Samantha said the recent reports about the drug all made sense to her (Image: Samantha Russell)

Fourteen years ago, Samantha Russell was prescribed sodium valproate for her epilepsy for the first time.

For many women, it’s proven to be a very effective medicine for diminishing or stopping epileptic seizures. In some cases it may be the only medicine that works.

Now 31 years-old and living in North Ayshire with her four surviving children, Samantha has since had to cope with the loss of one of her children, and the challenges of raising another child with serious learning difficulties.

Samantha’s daughter Kaitlyn was delivered in December 2007, following a normal and healthy pregnancy.

Just four short weeks later she had died of a brain injury, sustained at birth.

Dylan was born with severe learning difficulties (Image: Samantha Russell)

Dylan, now eight, was similarly born after a stress-free pregnancy, and has Global Development Delay, is prone to aggressive outbursts and experiences learning difficulties.

Dylan may have never met his older sister, but Samantha says they share some heartbreaking similarities, and it was while reading recent reports into sodium valproate that “it all fell into place” for Samantha.

Like his older sister, Dylan was born with “low set ears and wide eyes” as well as one ear bigger than the other. Kaitlyn was also born with a cleft palate and a flat nasal bridge.

Her daughter Kaitlyn, who died in 2008 (Image: Samantha Russell)

According to Samantha, her pregnancies with Dylan and Kaitlyn were the only ones during which she took sodium valproate, and she believes their facial features and Dylan’s learning difficulties are consistent with Fetal Valproate Syndrome.

Sodium valproate was introduced in the UK in the 1970s and has since been found to be potentially dangerous for pregnant women.


Dylan as a baby (Image: Samantha Russell)

Yet it was only as recently as last year that a warning directed at pregnant women, and women who were trying to conceive, was published on the packaging.

A survey by Epilepsy Action, Epilepsy Society and Young Epilepsy discovered one fifth of women taking the epilepsy medicine sodium valproate don’t know the risks it can cause during pregnancy.

Samantha Russell says she only took the drug with two of her pregnancies (Image: Samantha Russell)

Samantha claims medical professionals never made her aware of the risks when she became pregnant.

“I was asked by a paediatrician if I had taken it but it was never followed up,” Samantha explains.

The last ten years have been very difficult for the mum.



Kaitlyn’s grave (Image: Samantha Russell)

“The impact it’s had on us is very hard and heartbreaking. We have been accused of ill parenting and taken through parenting courses – and they couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working,” she explains.

“My husband is very supportive and changed my life from age 19,” she adds.

Samantha says she is now backing a public enquiry into the epilepsy drug.

(Video Included Below)

Experts Share How To Save A Choking Baby In Seconds!!

Did you know a child dies every five days from choking on food?

According to St. John Ambulance, 40% of parents have watched their own baby choke, whether on food, toys, or coins. Even more startling is that 80% of these parents had absolutely no idea how to react to the situation.

Every day over the past decade, 34 children ended up in the emergency room from choking on food. Babies one-year-old and younger comprised about 38 percent of this number, tending to choke on formula or breast milk.

Candies were responsible for 1 in 4 ER trips, followed by meat bones, fruits, and vegetables.

It’s not uncommon for 10 percent of kids to require hospitalization after choking. In fact, kids who choked on hot dogs, seeds, or nuts were two to three times as likely to require it.

Signs Your Baby Is Choking

1. Blueish skin color
2. Difficulty breathing, labored breaths
3. Loss of consciousness
4. Inability to cry or make sounds
5. Weak coughing
6. Soft or high-pitched sounds when inhaling

How to Stop Your Baby From Choking

1. Perform a finger sweep by opening the child’s mouth and running your finger along the inside. Feel for any obstructions.
2. Lay your baby face-down, along your forearm. You can use your thigh or lap for support.
3. Hold your baby’s chest in your hand and hold the jaw with your fingers.
4. Point your baby’s head downward so it is lower than the body.
5. Using your palm, give up to 5 quick blows between your baby’s shoulders.

If this doesn’t work:

1. Turn your baby face-up on your thigh or lap. Support the head.
2. Place 2 fingers on the middle of his breastbone, just below the nipples.
3. Give 5 quick thrusts, pushing down about ½ the depth of the chest.
4. Alternate between this and 5 back blows.

If these methods don’t work or your child becomes unresponsive or turns blue, give infant CPR for 1 minute. Call 911 immediately following this (ideally, a second person would have done this while you first began giving aid). You can try to remove the stuck object with your finger, but only if you see it and only if the baby is unconscious.

Luckily, the best way to handle choking is to prevent it altogether.

Here are some simple ways you can save your baby’s life, solely by taking preventative measures:

1. Keep children younger than 4 away from round, firm foods. If necessary, cut them into little pieces. Cut grapes into quarters.
2. Never give toddlers hard candy, nuts, seeds, balloons, buttons, or raw carrots.
3. Don’t allow children to play, run, or lie down while eating.
4. Keep young children away from coins.
5. Always read the warning labels on toys! Many will warn of a choking hazard.
6. Learn CPR!

The best way to learn CPR is to attend a class taught by a certified instructor. You’ll find that many hospitals, community centers, and local chapters of the American Red Cross and American Heart Association offer these classes. Usually, the instructor will use a child-size mannequin to demonstrate. Many people find it’s much better to attend a class in person, rather than just simply read about it in books. And it’s better to do it before the baby’s born, when you’ll not only have more time, but be prepared!

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