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Sunday 11 December 2016

Mother tells inquiry how baby boy died in her arms

Kevin Keane

Published 05/10/2011 | 05:00

A MOTHER has told how her newborn son died in her arms just hours after doctors had said he could not survive a rare genetic disorder that had not been flagged up before his birth.

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It was only the second time that Jane Kenny had held her six-day-old son Ruairi. He was born with Trisomy E or Edwards syndrome, a genetic disorder caused by the presence of an extra chromosome in his DNA.

Yesterday, Mrs Kenny's consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician, Dr David Martin Mortell, faced a Medical Council fitness-to-practise inquiry over a series of allegations, including that he failed to recognise signs of the disorder and take appropriate action.

Ruairi Kenny was delivered by caesarian section in the Midlands Regional Hospital, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, on December 5, 2009, 38 weeks into the pregnancy.

"I didn't hear him cry and I was thinking straight away, 'Why wasn't he crying?'" Mrs Kenny, who works as a house-keeping manager at Trinity College Dublin, told the inquiry.

"Nobody told us if he was a boy or a girl and there was a lot of staff over by him. Eventually a nurse came round to me and said, 'You have a lovely wee man' and I said, 'What do you mean, a wee man?'

"She said, 'He's small.' I knew, lying there at that stage, that there was a problem," the married mother of one from Mullingar said.

The child was rushed to Crumlin children's hospital in Dublin, after being baptised following advice that he might not survive the journey. Tests carried out the following week confirmed that Ruairi was suffering from Edwards syndrome, a condition that one doctor described at the time as making him "incompatible with life".

"They said it was full Edwards and probably when they took him off the ventilator he'd die. Myself and Rory had to make the decision when that would happen, so we said we would do it later that day -- it gave us time to call our families.

"People have asked me since if we gave it enough time and yes we did. At the end of the day somebody else would have needed that ventilator later on, so it was our decision and we stand by it," Mrs Kenny told the inquiry.

"They switched off the ventilator just after four o'clock and he lived till just after five. He died in our arms, that was only the second time that I held him," Mrs Kenny said.

"One of the hardest things for me is the day that he died we had nothing to fit him and we left him in a hospital wrapped in a towel. How could we do that?"

Examination

In a letter to the Medical Council, Dr Mortell outlined how he had carried out five 'fundal height' examinations on Mrs Kenny. These examinations are used to give an indication of the size of a baby and can provide an early indication of developmental problems.

None of the recorded results showed a significant abnormality in foetus size.

However, in his letter, Dr Mortell wrote: "I'm sorry I didn't explain to Mrs Kenny during the pregnancy that although the baby was small, I was happy enough with its progress."

An expert witness -- Dr Joanna Gillham, consultant obstetrician at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester -- said it was very difficult to say whether the fundal height measurements had been carried out properly.

"On the information I have been able to review, I couldn't find evidence that Dr Mortell had performed measurements to show that the baby could have been small."

The inquiry will hear evidence from Dr Mortell when it resumes next month.

Irish Independent

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