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Inquest hears how young mum died eight days after giving birth

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Dhara and Michael Kivlehan decided to raise their family in Co Leitrim (Family Handout/PA)

Dhara and Michael Kivlehan decided to raise their family in Co Leitrim (Family Handout/PA)

Michael Kivlehan, right, and Sean Rowlette, who also lost his wife during childbirth, at the Inquest into the death of Dhara Kivlehan at Carrick On Shannon court in Leitrim, yesterday. Photo: James Connolly / PicSell8

Michael Kivlehan, right, and Sean Rowlette, who also lost his wife during childbirth, at the Inquest into the death of Dhara Kivlehan at Carrick On Shannon court in Leitrim, yesterday. Photo: James Connolly / PicSell8

James Connolly / PicSell8

Michael Kivlehan with the late Dhara Kivlehan.

Michael Kivlehan with the late Dhara Kivlehan.

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Dhara and Michael Kivlehan decided to raise their family in Co Leitrim (Family Handout/PA)

A DOCTOR said it was hard to tell if a woman was jaundiced because she was Indian, an inquest into her death heard.

Dhara Kivlehan (29) "looked like a budgie" because her skin was yellowed, her husband said.

Michael Kivlehan (35), from Dromahair, Co Leitrim, made the allegation during the inquest into the death of the woman he described as the "light of my life". Mrs Kivlehan died in September 2010 at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, eight days after giving birth to her son Dior at Sligo General Hospital. Dior was four on Sunday.

Her husband told coroner Dr Eamonn McGowan that his fight to have an inquest had left 'a bitter taste' and that he had 'struggled' to find out even small details about the care given at Sligo General.

The High Court has already awarded Mr Kivlehan and Dior €800,000 in damages.

Yesterday at the inquest in Carrick on Shannon Court, Mr Kivlehan recounted how he had raised concerns with medical staff in Sligo within hours of the caesarean section on September 20, 2010.

Healthy

He said he and his wife led healthy lives, exercising regularly and eating only home made organic foods.

However in mid-August 2010, his wife began suffering severe abdominal pains and bleeding and had gone to hospital.

Mr Kivlehan said that he was surprised to find his wife in a room on the maternity ward in Sligo just after the birth of their son Dior, saying he had been told by a member of medical staff that she was being transferred to ICU for treatment.

He said he complained several times about his wife's care. Dhara was swollen and her skin looked jaundiced.

"She looked like a budgie," he said, recalling how he complained his wife hadn't been moved to ICU.

"I then asked this doctor (Dr Seamus Crowley) whether or not in his opinion Dhara looked jaundiced. I told the doctor that it was my opinion that Dhara was jaundiced.

"In response to this the doctor told me it was hard to tell if Dhara had jaundice because she was Indian.

"I was too stunned to respond," said Mr Kivlehan.

Barrister for the HSE Adrienne Egan however put it to Mr Kivlehan that his wife was given a higher level of care in a private room in the maternity ward.

Ms Egan also said the medic was "extremely upset" at the interpretation of his comments.

She said Dr Seamus Crowley had already seen liver tests which showed Mrs Kivlehan probably was jaundiced.

He had simply pointed out that diagnosing the illness on sight of a patient was much easier for people with paler skins than it was with people from Asia, said Ms Egan.

Mr Kivlehan said he had been told that an ICU bed was actually available but it was being kept free in the event of it being needed by someone involved in a road traffic accident.

Midwife at Sligo General Hospital, Catherine Mulhern told the hearing that Mrs Kivlehan was admitted to the hospital on September 20, 2010.

By 5.10am as her condition deteriorated a decision was taken to perform an emergency caesarean. Her husband rushed to be at her side.

Dior was born at 5.56am.

"I noted baby to be pale and floppy," said the midwife.

Damian Tansey, for the Kivlehans, said blood tests the previous day, ordered by Dr Imadeldin Abdeleaim, had never been followed up.

The coroner has been unable to locate the medic, who is no longer in Ireland.

On Friday September 24, 2010, Michael Kivlehan said he had waited almost two hours to see a kidney specialist when he was "grabbed by left arm quite forcibly".

"The ICU nurse then told me most forcefully 'if you want to make yourself useful you should get your wife a drink'. She suggest Lucozade. I told her the doctors had already told me that if Dhara was to receive fluids, they should not be carbonated."

When he returned the kidney specialist was gone and he met a consultant.

"I asked him to tell me straight out what was wrong with Dhara. He told me it was likely that Dhara would die."

His wife was airlifted to hospital in Belfast that night. She died there four days later.

"I lost the light of my life the day Dhara died," said Michael.

"I do my best to raise Dior as a single dad, but it is a struggle. Our beautiful baby boy should have been the start of something wonderful. We had great plans together and had just started renovating a house.

"We had settled well into life in the west of Ireland making a conscious to move from London to a less hectic lifestyle. I need, and Dior deserves, answers as to why Dhara died."

Under cross-examination by Mr Tansey, representing the Kivlehans, pathologist Dr Brian Herron agreed that Mrs Kivlehan's death was unusual.

He found Dhara had died on September 28, 2010 from multiple organ failure caused by HELLP, a severe form of pre-eclampsia.

He said it was the first case he had come across in the past 10 years, agreeing that the mortality rate among women in Western countries who suffer from HELLP syndrome was 1pc.

Earlier Mr Kivlehan had praised staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, saying he had been contacted by staff in the days and weeks after his wife's death there but he had no contact from staff at Sligo General.

The hearing before a jury of five men and two women continues.

Irish Independent