Saturday 21 April 2018

'Scan could have saved baby Conor,' says mother

Siobhan and Andrew Whelan at Cavan Courthouse with a picture of their son Conor. Photo: Teevan Photography
Siobhan and Andrew Whelan at Cavan Courthouse with a picture of their son Conor. Photo: Teevan Photography
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A heartbroken mother has said she believes her baby would still be alive if a maternity hospital had acted more promptly, after a verdict of medical misadventure was returned at an inquest into his death.

Siobhan Whelan's son Conor died in Cavan General Hospital just 17-and-a-half hours after he was born by emergency Caesarean. The inquest heard that he died from multi-organ failure caused by blood loss related to an undiagnosed condition known as vasa praevia.

Ms Whelan was not diagnosed with the obstetric complication until after his birth. Vasa praevia is a condition where foetal blood vessels block the birth canal.

Dr John Gillan, the pathologist who carried out the postmortem on baby Conor, told the inquest pressure on the vasa praevia which caused it to rupture led to blood loss and the resulting lack of oxygen to the baby's organs.

Speaking after the verdict was handed down, Ms Whelan said her son's legacy would live on.

"An earlier elective Caesarean section, even earlier that day, we firmly believe Conor would be alive and well here with us today," she said.

"We are Conor's voice and it has taken two and a half years to get answers to our many questions.

"It will not bring Conor back, unfortunately - however, his life mattered and his legacy in his short time with us will go on to hopefully prevent future unnecessary deaths," she said.

Read more: Elements of post-natal care before baby's death 'not acceptable' - inquest hears

Ms Whelan also said vasa praevia is detectable and had it been picked up during her pregnancy it would have led to a different care path for her.

"Unfortunately, the lack of detailed scanning in a lot of our maternity units, not just in Cavan, [and] a lack of equality of care to all pregnant mothers is a big issue that needs to be turned around.

"Every pregnant mother is entitled to a decent scan, to leave the antenatal clinic knowing for sure that everything is as it should be, and to have it afforded to every mother in Ireland, not just by postcode lottery," she said.

She also encouraged women who had concerns to insist on being tested and asked medical professionals to consider the possibility of the condition if a woman presents with risk factors as she had.

Evelyn Hall, General Manager of Cavan General Hospital, apologised to Ms Whelan and her husband Andrew after the verdict. She said the hospital would support the recommendations handed down by the jury. These were that a HSE review of the obstetric-gynecology department in Cavan be carried out, the appointment of an obstetric radiologist and scanning for pregnant women at 20 weeks.

Irish Independent

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