Wednesday 21 February 2018

'I just want to know where it all went wrong' - grieving mum tells inquest of son who died after one day

Siobhan & Andrew Whelan leave Cavan Courthouse following the second day of the inquest into the death of their beloved son Conor James at Cavan General Hospital. Photo: Teevan Photography
Siobhan & Andrew Whelan leave Cavan Courthouse following the second day of the inquest into the death of their beloved son Conor James at Cavan General Hospital. Photo: Teevan Photography
Siobhan and Andrew Whelan, the parents of baby Conor at Cavan courthouse Photo: Lorraine Teevan

A GRIEVING mum has said she "wants to know how I fell through the cracks of the system and where it all went wrong" in relation to the death of her son in hospital a day after he was born.

Conor Whelan died at Cavan General Hospital on May 14, 2014. The boy survived for just 17-and-a-half hours after being delivered by emergency caesarian.

His parents Siobhan Whelan (40) and Andrew were in Cavan Court this morning to hear testimony given to coroner Dr Mary Flanagan during the second day of the inquest into his death.

Testimony was heard today from Ms Ann Emmo, a stenographer who performed an ultrasound on Ms Whelan March 21 March. Ms Whelan has claimed that she was told on that date by Dr Mortimer,  a consultant radiographer who she said was called in to view the scan, that it was too hard to tell if a low - lying placenta was in issue for the expectant mum.

During her evidence on Monday Ms Whelan said she was told by Dr Mortimer she was in good hands with her consultant and he  would likely carry out his own internal exam.

This exam did not take place.

However, via Skype testimony this morning Dr Mortimer said she had never met Siobhan Whelan and would not be able to describe her appearance.

She would "never say that. In obstetrics things can change within seconds" she said in relation to her alleged comments about Ms Whelan 's consultant.

Her former colleague Ms Emo said she had no recollection of scanning Ms Whelan and could only provide evidence based on the records. It was her job to provide the image to a consultant who would put together a report.

Ms Emo also said she was not aware of any changes instigated in the hospital following Conor 's death.

She no longer carries out obstetric ultrasounds in the hospital and said that she had made that decision prior to the baby's death.

There is nobody in the hospital dedicated to only carrying out ultrasounds on pregnant women at the moment she said.

The court also heard that Conor 's case has been reviewed by staff at the hospital "many many times".

Thirteen people are due to give testimony today.

Ms Whelan had been suffering from a case of undiagnosed vasa praevia, an obstetric complication in which foetal blood vessels cross or run near the internal orifice of the uterus.

The court heard on Monday that the placenta was divided into two discs, joined by vital arteries and veins via the membrane.

This morning it heard that there is no agreed international screening program for the condition and not all cases are picked up. There was a scan,  a trans vaginal scan, that would have had a better  chance of picking up the condition but Dr Mortimer said the scan and the later report were normal following Ms Whelan's March 21 scan.

There was no uncertainty in relation to the scan or anything that warranted further investigation  she said.

Ms Whelan arrived at the hospital just after 12.40pm on May 13, 2014. But as she walked to the maternity ward she realised she was bleeding.

“Andrew ran ahead of me looking and shouted for help and I started panicking too, shouting for help,” she said.

After she began bleeding, she said she was again told in the maternity unit on May 13 that everything was fine.

“My husband and I were so concerned we even asked could they just do a c-section to get the baby out safe. They told us again to relax, that everything was okay,” said Ms Whelan.

“My husband got very anxious when he saw more blood and begged them to do something. He reminded them that a baby had died at the hospital two weeks ago and could they please do something before someone else’s life was put at risk.”

Ms Whelan said she was told again that everything was fine but her husband “pleaded with them to do something.”

“I was pleading ‘no more instruments up me…please give me a section’ but she (the gynaecologist) wanted to rupture my membranes.

“Ann (the nurse) said to her ‘before you rupture membranes, would you not consider doing a test on the baby’s head to see how the baby is doing’.

“The doctor went ahead and broke my waters. ‘There, waters are broken now’ she said.”

Ms Whelan said she was rushed to theatre for an emergency caesarian within minutes.

Baby Conor was born at 1.49pm and weighed eight pounds. He had to be revived. He was rushed to the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin but as he couldn’t be saved he was taken back to Cavan Hospital to spend his last eight hours with his parents and sisters.

Ms Whelan has claimed that she was told a few days later by another medic that Conor had died because her membranes had been ruptured.

She told her solicitor Roger Murray, that “all pregnant women in this country should be afforded equality of care. There needs to be a scanning of pregnant women at 20 weeks.”

Conor Whelan is one of four babies who died at Cavan General Hospital in a period of 30 months.

The inquest continues.

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