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'Her death was completely preventable' - partner of woman who died of sepsis after giving birth tells of shattered dreams


Karen McEvoy and her partner Barry Kelly

Karen McEvoy and her partner Barry Kelly

Karen McEvoy and her partner Barry Kelly

The partner of a young mother of three who died on Christmas Day 2018 after her life-threatening sepsis was missed spoke yesterday of how their plans and dreams had been shattered .

The Coombe Hospital in Dublin apologised in the High Court for the “failings in care” of Karen McEvoy (24), of Blessington, Co Wicklow, only a week after she gave birth to her third child.

Her partner, Barry Kelly, who now looks after their three children – Jake (6), Toby (3) and two-year-old Ruby – full-time, settled their actions over her death.

He told the Irish Independent: “We talk about Karen all the time. I see her in the children.”


Barry Kelly

Barry Kelly

Barry Kelly

He told how they had been saving for a house and had big plans for their future that had been destroyed.

“Karen had a heart of gold. We were together nearly six years and were inseparable from the first time we met,” Mr Kelly said.

Still in his 20s, he gave up his job to look after the children, creating a loving home where little Ruby “is the boss”.

On Christmas Day the family will release balloons in memory of Ms McEvoy.

“Today in court was Karen’s day. It was an admission of what went wrong in her care,” Mr Kelly said. Speaking outside the Four Courts, he paid tribute to Ms McEvoy, saying she was an amazing young woman and mother.


Karen McEvoy

Karen McEvoy

Karen McEvoy

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“Her death was completely preventable had she been properly treated and cared for by the Coombe Hospital. Instead, she was wrongly diagnosed with sciatica when in fact she had sepsis.

“No amount of money will ever change anything for myself and our three children.”

Flanked by his legal team, Esther Earley BL and solicitor Niamh O’Brien, he added: “Hopefully, our loss will increase the awareness of sepsis in maternity hospitals in the country.”

Ms McEvoy gave birth to her third child, Ruby, on December 18, 2018, but became ill and complained of lower back and abdominal pain in the days after.

She died on Christmas Day 2018, having developed maternal sepsis and septic shock secondary to infection.

The letter of apology to Mr Kelly from the Master of the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, Professor Michael O’Connell, was read to the High Court. It expressed sincere apologies to Mr Kelly and his three children “for our failings in care afforded to Ms McEvoy at this hospital on December 23, 2018”.

It added: “I fully accept that these failings should not have happened.

“I can’t begin to imagine the consequences of Karen’s sad loss on you, Jake, Toby, Ruby, your extended family and Karen’s family.

“We in the Coombe are truly sorry for the distress that Karen’s death has caused.”

Liability was admitted in the cases and settlements in the actions over Ms McEvoy’s death and for nervous shock were reached after mediation.

The details of the settlements are confidential, but the court was told very substantial compensation was involved.

The family’s counsel, Richard Kean SC, told the court liability was admitted in the case.

He said it was a “calamitous event” in the lives of the Kellys and McEvoys and Mr Kelly had been left without the woman he loved, whom he had planned to marry.

“It is an appalling tragedy and our experts would say that if Karen got a modicum of treatment she would have made an uneventful recovery,” counsel said.

Approving the settlements, which include the statutory mental distress payment of €35,000, Mr Justice Paul Coffey conveyed his deepest sympathy to the families on their loss.

Ms McEvoy’s son, Jake Kelly, of Redbog, Blessington, Co Wicklow, had through his father, Barry Kelly, sued the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital, Dublin.

The six-year-old boy had sued on his own behalf and on behalf of his family, including his brother Toby (3), two-year old Ruby and extended family.

Ms McEvoy was admitted to the Coombe Hospital on December 18, 2018, and gave birth to Ruby just before 6am.

Mother and baby were discharged from hospital the next day, but Ms McEvoy became increasingly unwell.

On December 23 she went back to the Coombe with her baby daughter for Ruby’s routine screening, and it was claimed she relayed her own complaints and was advised to attend the hospital emergency department.

She attended the emergency department complaining of severe back and abdominal pain and feeling generally unwell.

It was claimed Ms McEvoy was not admitted to hospital and she was discharged without her condition having been diagnosed.

On Christmas Day, Ms Mc-
Evoy’s condition was very grave and she was transferred by ambulance to Naas General Hospital. She arrived at the hospital after midday and died before 4pm from multi-organ failure with septicemia due to an infection.

It was claimed there was a failure to provide any adequate treatment to Ms McEvoy and that she was caused to contract the Group A streptococcus infection.

There was also an alleged failure to heed complaints by Ms McEvoy before her discharge on December 19 and a failure to carry out an accurate assessment or investigation of her before her discharge.

An HSE-commissioned report into her death highlighted how the Coombe Hospital’s triage room was the “size of a broom cupboard”. It called for more training of health staff on sepsis.

A spokesman for the Coombe told the Irish Independent planning permission for a new acute assessment unit has been secured and the hospital was “working on options to fund this project”

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