'I never got to hear my baby son Joshua cry' - Grief stricken mother tells her story to Leo Varadkar
After more than five years of heartbreaking trauma, cover-ups, questions and confusion, Shauna Keyes finally feels "some relief" after telling her story to Health Minister Leo Varadkar.
Last week, Shauna (23), whose son Joshua died nearly an hour after being delivered by emergency C-section at Portlaoise Hospital in 2009, arrived to the Killeshin Hotel along with other bereaved families.
Walking into the face-to-face meeting with Mr Varadkar, Shauna felt "nervous and overwhelmed" and says she didn't know what to expect. But, she was determined to get assurances that no other parent would have to go through the "unbearable nightmare" that she and her partner, Joey, have endured for five-and-a -half years.
"I asked the minister for reassurances that things are going to get better and that it will never go back to the way it was. I wanted confirmation that there would be no more culture of cover-up in the hospital which was devastating for us," she said.
Although she is still awaiting a reply, she said Mr Varadkar has "really taken on Hiqa's advice over the past week and he seems to want to fix the problem".
Shauna, from Tullamore, Co Offaly, also asked Dr Susan O'Reilly, chief executive of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, if she was going to get her own individual investigation into Joshua's death.
"I asked for these two things because I just wanted some reassurance," said Shauna, who admitted her son's death put a huge strain on her relationship.
"We're very lucky to have gotten through it, a lot of relationships break and fall apart after something like this happens to them, marriages have been destroyed. "We have been waiting for five years without any proper knowledge of what happened and we went from blaming each other to blaming ourselves. It was really tough."
For Shauna, the most vivid memory of losing her son was not hearing him cry when he was delivered. "There was no cry, all I heard was counting, a crash call, people bursting in while a midwife was trying to pin my head down in the opposite direction," said Shauna, who was just 18 years old at the time.
Shauna and Joey got no answers for about an hour and a half. "Because I was a young they didn't treat me like a mother, they didn't even treat me like a human being," said Shauna, who added that her own mother was told that Joshua had died before she was eventually informed.
However, staff at the hospital were "very quick" to stress that there was nothing that anyone could have done.
"They said he possibly died because I was overweight, and that there are more complications with big babies, they said he showed signs of Down Syndrome, that he was badly brain-damaged," she said.
Now Shauna knows, thanks to a HSE report, that "staff negligence" was a contributary factor in Joshua's death.
"Accidents are going to happen, you're never going to have 100pc safety anywhere you go, but they can definitely prevent the level of trauma that is caused afterwards and that all I'm asking for," she said. Last December, Shauna gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Maisie, in Portlaoise Hospital.