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Wednesday 13 December 2017

'I watched my baby suffocate to death in my arms'

Annie Roche with husband Ciaran and day-old daughter Aishling, who had five fatal heart conditions
Annie Roche with husband Ciaran and day-old daughter Aishling, who had five fatal heart conditions
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

A mother has told of the trauma of holding her baby girl as she suffocated to death after she was taken off life support.

Annie Roche, from Mitchelstown, Co Cork, was left with an agonising decision when she and her husband Ciaran were told that their day-old daughter Aishling had five fatal heart conditions.

"We didn't know anything was wrong with Aishling until she was 24 hours old. She went blue and after being examined the doctors said she had five complex heart conditions. We were told she had zero chance of survival," Annie said.

Annie and Ciaran, who had two young daughters at home, had to make the decision of whether to keep Aishling on life support in Crumlin Children's Hospital.

"We decided to withdraw her palliative care because we couldn't justify putting her through the pain and suffering," she added. "We were told she'd never leave the hospital and would only live for a couple of months.

"We couldn't justify putting her through the pain just so we could hold onto her a while longer. We would have been selfish if we didn't let her go.

"When we removed the life support I held her in my arms and watched her turn blue. I watched her for an hour and 15 minutes as she suffocated to death. She was gasping for breath very loudly. It was horrific to see and watch your baby suffocate to death."

In the hours before Aishling died in November 2010, Annie and Ciaran took a photo with her. Annie said a lot of people have asked her why she's smiling in her photo with Aishling.

"People questioned if I was happy that my daughter was dying. They make assumptions on how I should have felt. It was 3am and we had spent the night before learning about Aishling's condition and making the hardest decision of our lives," she said.

"I was smiling because when I held Aishling I still felt joy. I always smiled when I looked into the face of one of my babies."

Annie believes families should have the power to decide what happens to their babies before and after their birth.

"Six years ago, I would have thought that the best decision was to carry a baby to full-term. After talking to families who travelled to the UK for an abortion, they did because of the same reasons we took Aishling off life-support. If they keep their baby it will suffer.

"There's no right answer for what to do in that situation," she added.

Irish Independent

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