Friday 23 March 2018

Mum's anger at 'hospital request for backing' after death of baby

Siobhan and Andrew Whelan, the parents of baby Conor at Cavan courthouse Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Siobhan and Andrew Whelan, the parents of baby Conor at Cavan courthouse Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Greg Harkin

A grieving mum who lost her newborn baby amid allegations of medical mistakes was asked to issue a media statement hours after the death praising the hospital where he died, an inquest has heard.

Siobhan Whelan (40), from Drumora, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, was giving evidence to coroner Mary Flanagan into the death of her son Conor at Cavan General Hospital on May 14, 2014. The boy survived for just 17 and a half hours after being delivered by emergency caesarean.

Mrs 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 that the placenta was divided into two discs, joined by vital arteries and veins via the membrane.

The possibility of this had been picked up in an ultrasound in March but while Mrs Whelan was referred for a further scan, this didn't take place and instead she was told her pregnancy was fine.

The mother, who has two daughters, now aged 12 and eight, wiped away tears at the inquest in Cavan as she recalled how she and her husband Andrew had been joking when they 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.

"At every clinic after March 21, 2014, I kept asking them to check my placenta," said the mother. "On every occasion I was told to 'stop worrying', that there was nothing to worry about with my placenta."

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 OK," said Mrs Whelan.

"My husband got very anxious when he saw more blood and begged them to do something. He reminded them 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."

Mrs 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. (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."

Within a minute, Mrs Whelan said she was being rushed for an emergency caesarean.

Baby Conor was born at 1.49pm and weighed 8lb. He had to be revived. He was rushed to the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. But because he couldn't be saved he was taken back to Cavan hospital to spend his last eight hours with his parents and sisters.

"His two sisters, who were so excited to meet their baby brother, now faced the realisation that he won't be coming home with us," said Siobhan.

"The pain for me was not being able to cuddle, caress, bathe and change my baby due to wires and tube. His eyes opened twice and I couldn't see into his eyes."

Mrs Whelan said she was told later by another medic that Conor had died because her membranes had been ruptured.

When she told this medic - Dr Alan Finan - that Dr Rita Mehta had performed the procedure, he (Dr Finan) was "so shocked that he staggered back into the wall."

The day after Conor died, she said Dr Finan and hospital general manager Bridget Clark "had actually come into my room for us to give backing to an article they wanted to release to the paper stating how safe Cavan hospital was, which I refused to do, as I was concerned at how they could let two babies dies within two and half weeks of each other".

Under questioning by her solicitor Roger Murray, Siobhan Whelan said she faced a choice of being bitter and angry - or campaigning to ensure this didn't happen again.

She said: "There needs to be a scanning of pregnant women at 20 weeks."

Irish Independent

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