Tuesday 17 September 2019

'We have been left shattered' - parents of newborn who died after her heart was pierced during procedure

Laoise Ni Scolai's parents Irene Kavanagh and Coilin O’Scolai at the inquest today
Laoise Ni Scolai's parents Irene Kavanagh and Coilin O’Scolai at the inquest today
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

A coroner has returned a verdict of medical misadventure in the death of a newborn baby who died after her heart was pierced as she underwent a procedure in the Coombe Hospital.

Baby Laoise Ní Scolaí and her twin brother Cuán were born premature at 28 weeks on January 22, 2015, at Dublin’s Coombe Hospital.

Both babies were diagnosed as suffering from respiratory distress syndrome and Cuán was the first to undergo a chest drain procedure to remove air trapped in his chest cavity.

The same procedure, where a needle is inserted into the chest and air is released, was later performed on Laoise when an x-ray revealed she too was suffering from a tension pneumothorax.

However during the procedure on January 24 Laoise’s heart was pierced.

She was transferred to Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, but was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

A post mortem revealed her death was due to a rupture of the heart due to a penetrating injury by a catheter. A contributing factor was her prematurity.

Pathologist Professor John O’Leary said he could not be definitive as to whether the injury was due to the needle being inserted too far, or whether it was due to the heart shifting back following the air being released from the chest cavity by the insertion of the drain.

Laoise Ni Scolai's parents Irene Kavanagh and Coilin O’Scolai at the inquest today
Laoise Ni Scolai's parents Irene Kavanagh and Coilin O’Scolai at the inquest today

Neonatal registrar, Dr Muhammad Islam, who carried out the procedure on Laoise, became tearful as he expressed his deepest sympathies to Laoise’s parents, Cóilín Ó Scolaí and Irene Kavanagh from Comeragh Road, Drimnagh, at Dublin Coroner’s Court today.

He told the inquest he had previously carried out between 30 and 35 of the chest drain procedures.

He suggested one explanation for the piercing of the baby’s heart could have been a sudden release of air following the insertion of the chest tube that may have moved the heart.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said the Coombe’s baby unit had begun using a new technique for chest drain insertions in the previous 12-18 months before Laoise’s death and was moving away from using a wide-bore insertion. However there were no written guidelines at the time in the baby unit in relation to the newer technique.

She pointed that a new document covering this was introduced by the hospital in February 2015.

Solicitor for the family, Daniel Hughes, said they welcomed the verdict that Laoise’s death was due to medical misadventure and her recommendation that guidelines for chest drain procedures be drawn to the attention of staff at the Coombe.

“If one other child can be saved, it gives the family some solace after three years of grief,” he added.

Mr Ó Scolaí said, as a family, they had been left “devastated and broken” by the death of their daughter.

“We want to ensure this never happens to any other family. We have been left shattered and broken.

“Her siblings have lost us for the last two-and-a-half years because we have been devastated by this.”

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