Tuesday 17 October 2017

'I brought my baby home in a little blue coffin in the back of my dad's car' - devastated mum after son's hospital death

Parents of baby Darragh Byrne, Maree and Eoin.
Parents of baby Darragh Byrne, Maree and Eoin.
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

The mother of a baby who died aged just four days old has told of how she brought her son home in a small blue coffin in the backseat of her father's car.

Parents Maree and Eoin Byrne, from Woodgrove Lawns, Portlaoise, Co Laois, lost their son Darragh shortly after his birth at the Coombe Women's Hospital in Dublin in February 2013.

A verdict of medical misadventure was returned at an inquest into their son's death at the Dublin Coroner's Court yesterday.

Speaking to Newstalk's Lunchtime today, Maree described the harrowing journey home to Laois.

"Unfortunately, because Darragh died in hospital we had no option but to go for a post-mortem," she said.

"We agreed it was fine because we wanted answers.

"Initially the hospital told us they had some idea of how he died, but they weren't 100pc sure.

"Darragh went for an autopsy and he was brought back to us and we were allowed go home then.

"Unfortunately you do have to do this when your baby dies... but, yes, I brought my new baby home in a little blue coffin in the back of my dad's car."

Maree also described how her husband watched as her son was resuscitated shortly after birth, but "didn't have the heart to tell" her what was going on.

Lying in the operating theatre after the emergency C-section, Maree said she still hadn't realised anything was wrong.

"I had no idea - it was my first pregnancy, I was in the throes of labour pain, I thought it was all normal." she said.

"Nobody was panicking around me.

"I didn't know Darragh was in distress to be honest. When the doctors came in and told me we were going for a C-section I just thought, 'let's get on with it'.

"I was waiting for the baby to come out, I was waiting and waiting.

"I can't describe it but I said to Eoin, I said, 'what's taking so long?'.

"Little did I know that Eoin was looking at Darragh over the other side of the room being resuscitated.

"He didn't have the heart to tell me what was happening, that our son was being resuscitated and was clinging on to his life.

"Eoin was just holding me, trying to keep me together."

Maree said it "is a situation you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy".

"You expect to come home with a live baby and you're left in limbo not knowing if your baby is going to survive or not," she continued.

"Darragh was born on Friday and we didn't get to hold him until Monday.

"On Monday evening we were told there was no hope, we christened him in the neo-natal unit on the Monday night and he passed away the following morning, he was taken off life support.

"He passed away in my arms."

Maree said the couple faced "many difficulties, delays and setbacks" in their search for answers.

Dublin's Coroner's Court had previously heard how the couple received a "letter of apology" from the hospital acknowledging "failings" in the care of their son.

"What happened to Darragh has been such a difficult road trying to get information and some bit of honesty from the hospital," she said on air.

"It took my sister nine letters alone to get some information, some files, the risk assessment, it was like talking to a brick wall, being up against it.

"In every walk of life people should have accountability. In everyone's job if you do something wrong, there are repercussions. It doesn't seem to be like that for the medical profession.

"They still go about their daily lives delivering babies.

"We are relieved justice has been done but it has taken three years for it to happen.

"Only for my sister, the Coombe were happy for us to walk away and say nothing and be quiet about this."

Maree and Eoin celebrated the birth of their son Dylan 17 months ago and said he is giving them "strength".

Following three days of evidence, Coroner Dr Brian Farrell yesterday returned a verdict of medical misadventure based on the risk factors identified during the inquest.

The cause of death was multi-organ failure due to hypoxia, or lack of oxygen.

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