Monday 5 December 2016

'No words can describe the feeling of being told your baby might not survive' - mother tells inquest

Published 08/02/2016 | 12:40

Parents of baby Darragh Byrne, Maree and Eoin.
Parents of baby Darragh Byrne, Maree and Eoin.
Parents of baby Darragh Byrne, Marie and Eoin at Dublin’s Coroner’s Court.

The distraught mother of a baby boy who died five days after being born at Dublin’s Coombe hospital has said there are “no words” to describe being told her son would not live.

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Darragh Byrne was born a “navy blue colour” on February 15, 2013 - but died five days later.

Dublin’s Coroner’s Court heard today that his parents have since received a “letter of apology” from the hospital acknowledging “failings” in the care of their son.

They only received the letter in the past week, the court was told.

Addressing the court, Darragh’s mother, Marie Butler, from Portlaoise, Co Laois, recalled the “five precious days” she had with her child.

In the weeks before going into labour, she said all routine scans she underwent indicated a healthy baby boy, and that there was “no cause for concern.”

Later, a routine blood test at her local hospital indicated she had developed gestational diabetes.

She was referred to the diabetics team in the Coombe Hospital.

Her pregnancy continued as normal and her diabetes was “dietary controlled.”

On February 14, 2013, at approximately 35 weeks gestation, her waters broke at home.

She was admitted into the Coombe hospital at 10pm that night.

She was told it was hospital policy not to induce labour at 35 weeks, and that it was likely that she would go into labour within 24 hours.

At 6am the next day, the pain was getting “intense”.

She was transferred to the labour ward and placed on a drip to speed up the birth.

“I remember feeling like any first time mother; absolutely terrified,” she said.

“I was pushing and pushing for what seemed like an eternity, but nothing was happening.

“I remember the midwife scolding me for shouting.”

It was then decided to transfer her to theatre for a C-section.

“I remember lying on the table, terrified but excited that I was going to meet my baby.

“I asked my husband what was taking so long, and had they got the baby out yet.

“Eoghan didn’t say anything and I was so out of it that I had no cause for concern.

“Little did I know that Darragh had been taken from me a navy blue colour and non responsive.

“Darragh was being resuscitated clinging for his life and I had no idea.”

She spent four hours in a recovery room, she said, “completely unaware of what was going on.”

“Nobody would tell me anything.”

Eventually, a midwife told her that Darragh weighted five pounds fifteen ounces but insisted “that’s all she knew.”

Marie kept pressing for answers but nobody told her anything, she said.

She was later told that her son was “very sick” and was unlikely “to make it.”

“No words can describe the feeling of being told your baby might not survive.

“I eventually got to see my son at 10pm that night.”

Dr Michael O' Connell was the on-call consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Coombe at the time.

As the delivery was slow, he prescribed Oxytocin, to expedite the birth.

David Holland SC, for the family, said that Oxytocin can interfere with the transfer of oxygen to the foetus and needs to be carefully monitored.

Dr O'Connell disagreed that he had breached the Coombe guidelines on Oxytocin by using it in a pregnancy under 37 weeks.

The inquest heard that 54 minutes elapsed, between the time a decision was made to expedite the delivery, which was an emergency, and the Caesarean Section being performed.

Mr Holland told the Court it appeared the hospital are “facing up to the situation which has arisen.”

He said it is “staggering” that the hospital failed to carry out a review following the death of baby Darragh.

“That is quite an extraordinary omission.

“We are now told three years after the death, that the Coombe didn’t even do a review of the circumstances of the death of Darragh Byrne.

"Not only was no review done for three years, they didn't even fill out the basic incident review form, recognising that an incident had taken place.

“Now, three years later, it seems they accept that there were failings in his care significant enough to merit an apology."

The inquest is being held without a jury before coroner Dr Brian Farrell.

The hearing resumes tomorrow at 10.30am.

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