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'Eighth did not stop doctors acting to save me'

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Louise Dunleavy, from Navan, left at the save the 8th press conference in the Davenport Hotel. Photo: Damien Eagers

Louise Dunleavy, from Navan, left at the save the 8th press conference in the Davenport Hotel. Photo: Damien Eagers

Louise Dunleavy, from Navan, left at the save the 8th press conference in the Davenport Hotel. Photo: Damien Eagers

A pregnant nurse who was told she was just hours from death with sepsis has said the Eighth Amendment does not prevent Irish women from getting life-saving treatment.

Louise Dunleavy said she was the doctors' priority throughout her treatment and went on to deliver a baby boy, Cillian, at 34 weeks.

The mum of six from Navan, Co Meath, was speaking at a Save the 8th press conference in Dublin.

"During my fifth pregnancy, I developed life-threatening sepsis, the same condition that led to the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar. I know from first-hand experience that doctors were not constrained by the Eighth Amendment from acting to save my life," said Ms Dunleavy.

She was diagnosed with a spinal epidural abscess. The infection spread to her blood and she became extremely sick with septicaemia.

"I didn't understand the severity of it, and I didn't understand that I was rapidly heading towards paralysis and the next state would be death," said Ms Dunleavy.

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Louise Dunleavy, from Navan, Co Meath, with her daughter Ava (13) at the Save the 8th press conference in Dublin. She developed life-threatening sepsis during her fifth pregnancy. Photo: Damien Eagers

Louise Dunleavy, from Navan, Co Meath, with her daughter Ava (13) at the Save the 8th press conference in Dublin. She developed life-threatening sepsis during her fifth pregnancy. Photo: Damien Eagers

Louise Dunleavy, from Navan, Co Meath, with her daughter Ava (13) at the Save the 8th press conference in Dublin. She developed life-threatening sepsis during her fifth pregnancy. Photo: Damien Eagers

"The doctors originally thought they were going to have to do surgery, and they would have had to end my pregnancy by delivering my baby early."

Doctors were ultimately able to treat the infection aggressively with antibiotics.

"I was very lucky I hadn't begun to lose power in my legs, but had I they would have operated. My first day of treatment, I remember a doctor coming into me and tell me how lucky I was."

After six weeks of antibiotic therapy in hospital, she went into labour and delivered Cillian at 34 weeks.

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Another speaker, Audrey McElligott, who is originally from New Jersey but has been living for the past eight years in Blackrock, Co Louth, told how she was diagnosed with stage-four Hodgkin's Lymphoma while six months' pregnant.

She had three cycles of chemotherapy and delivered a healthy baby boy, Joseph Francis, now five.

"I am appalled to see abortion campaigners falsely claiming that women can't get cancer treatment in this country under the Eighth Amendment," said the mother of two.

Also speaking at the event, Prof Eamon McGuinness, a former chairman of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, said no Irish doctor would ever fail to intervene to save the life of a pregnant woman - even if that risked the life of her unborn child.

Prof McGuinness said those who claimed the Eighth Amendment prevented Irish women from getting treatment "are either gravely mistaken, or substituting their personal views for medical facts".


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