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Almost doubled over with sorrow, weeping widower recalls final moments with wife

THE nurse at the High Dependency Unit handed him a plastic apron to put on before he went to his wife's bedside. "Savita is a beautiful girl, she's lovely," she told him.

It was only afterwards that Praveen Halappanavar realised the nurse had probably been sympathising with him.

This was to be the couple's last conversation together.

He told Savita that her parents had arrived back safely in India after their visit to Ireland, and showed her the text message from her brother. She was relieved.

It was the last time he would see his wife fully conscious but Praveen did not know how gravely ill his wife was at that stage.

A silence heavy with empathy hung in the courtroom in Galway as the young widower in an immaculately ironed shirt paused in his testimony, struggling to blink back his tears.

He was almost doubled over with sorrow as he stood in the witness stand.

After an unbearable pause, Coroner Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin mercifully called for a short recess to allow him to compose himself. A small sigh of gentle relief arose in the courtroom.

It was appalling to watch this poor man having to endure this ordeal, reliving once again the agonies he had suffered in the terrifyingly long and uncertain hours at the hospital. From deep joy to helpless confusion as his wife lay bloated from infection in the Intensive Care Unit, to his bitter grief and anger, his voice mirrored all that had occurred.

Stoically he bore it all, even down to the part where he had to reread a large portion of his evidence because the jurors had been unable to hear him.

He and Savita had been friends for some years before their marriage, Praveen told the inquest.

They came from the same part of South India. Even after moving to Ireland, in 2006, to take up a job as an engineer with Boston Scientific, he paid frequent visits home and their relationship blossomed. They married a year later.

Savita had loved Ireland. She found it to be so peaceful after the hustle and bustle of India, he said.

She had also loved travel and Praveen listed off the places where they had celebrated their wedding anniversaries – Paris, Rome, Venice and the Greek island of Santorini.

The list stopped there because, tragically, they were to spend just four short years together as husband and wife.

Savita was fit and athletic and popular within both the Irish and Indian communities, Praveen said, his voice warm with pride.

They had always planned on having a baby in 2012 and when she fell pregnant the timing had worked out well with her Irish dentistry exams.

The couple had known that they were to have a daughter and had carefully selected a name for her. She was due to have been born 10 days ago, on March 30.

Earlier, Savita's GP, Dr Helen Howley, gave evidence of her first visit to confirm the pregnancy.

"They were delighted to be expecting a baby," she recalled.

Like all couples, they were full of questions about what to expect at that stage of pregnancy.

Savita was strong and healthy and "full of joys and full of questions" she said.

When the couple attended University Hospital Galway for the 12-week scan, Savita had cried tears of happiness on seeing her baby's image on the monitor, Praveen said.

It was not just the young couple who were looking forward to the baby.

SAVITA'S elderly parents were also excited about their forthcoming grandchild and had held a baby shower for their daughter in Galway, in accordance with Hindu tradition.

They were going to come again once the baby was born and had even left clothes here, thinking they would be returning shortly.

And though Savita was hospitalised before their departure, she could not bring herself to tell her parents that she was losing the baby.

Her mother had cooked food for her daughter and left it in the fridge, thinking she would be home to eat it.

Heartbreakingly, just a day later after her return to India, her lovely daughter was calling out for her, screaming "mama" in the depths of terrible pain, having finally lost her baby.

By tea time, she had slipped into unconsciousness.

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