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Health system failed our baby boy Adam from the very moment he was born

A THREE-month-old baby died from acute leukaemia after being repeatedly sent home from hospital by doctors who treated him for constipation.

Julia and Tom O'Connor, both aged 38 and from Mallow, Co Cork, last night claimed the healthcare system had failed their infant son Adam in every possible way.

Adam was eventually diagnosed as suffering from acute leukaemia just two days before his death.

Last night it emerged a major investigation into Adam's care had made 17 separate recommendations about paediatric care in one of Ireland's biggest hospitals. The report -- seen by the Irish Independent -- revealed one hospital doctor who examined Adam had no emergency department or paediatric experience.


It also revealed the baby was discharged without the registrar on duty carrying out a full clinical assessment.

Julia last night said the hard-hitting 27-page Health Service Executive (HSE) report would not bring back Adam -- but she expressed hope that no other parent would have to endure the nightmare they suffered.

"The system failed our son from the very moment he was born -- at every turn he was failed. The service provided for Adam was truly appalling -- and our comments are about Cork hospitals and not Mallow General Hospital, where the first signal that something was wrong was picked up," Julia told the Irish Independent.

Julia was convinced something was badly wrong with Adam from the moment he was born.

But despite her fears she was told he was constipated.

One doctor wrote in medical notes, later seen by the O'Connors, that: "Mum would want to relax, Mum would want to calm down -- Mum would want to go home and enjoy (her) baby more."

However, despite repeated visits to hospital Adam was only diagnosed with leukaemia two days before his death. Adam -- who was born on November 10, 2008 -- died on February 17, 2009 with his heartbroken parents at his hospital bedside.

"The only thing we can do for Adam is to go public in the hope no other parent goes through what we have suffered," she said.

Adam became ill over Christmas 2008. He would cry non-stop for hours and scream in obvious pain.

Over the next six weeks his worried parents repeatedly took him to see GPs, out-of-hours doctors, rang nurse helplines and twice brought him to A&E at Cork University Hospital (CUH).

"Adam was crying to us -- trying to let us know he was (very) sick. But people didn't want to listen to us," Julia added.

On both of their visits to the CUH A&E unit -- on January 4 and February 14 -- the couple did not get to see a paediatric consultant, being dealt with by junior doctors on both occasions.

Doctors told Tom and Julia their son had constipation.

However, Adam's condition continued to deteriorate.

On February 14, Adam was screaming in so much in pain he was again brought to CUH. Traces of blood were now detected in his vomit.

After waiting for almost two hours at CUH, they finally saw a junior doctor who prescribed suppositories for constipation.

However, the baby became so ill the next day -- February 15 -- that the couple brought him to Mallow General Hospital (MGH) in a desperate plea for help.

MGH doctors immediately advised them to get Adam to a paediatrician and the baby was rushed to CUH by ambulance.


After being admitted, blood tests and CT scans were conducted. Adam was later diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

He died 48 hours later.

The 27-page HSE report highlighted six major issues under care provision and systems delivery -- and made a total of 17 different recommendations.

The report found that on February 14 Adam had an abnormal heart rate -- but no detailed assessment was undertaken in the emergency department.

"The (report) review team have found that it would have been reasonable for baby Adam to have been reviewed by a member of the paediatric team as he was representing at CUH with an unresolving problem -- his heart rate was elevated, and the registrar had advised the family to attend the hospital," it said.

Irish Independent