Mother had to bury baby twice after another blunder at hospital
A MOTHER has spoken of her anguish at having to bury her baby girl twice after a series of blunders at the maternity unit in Portlaoise Hospital.
Janice Boland (39) and her husband John, from Sallins in Co Kildare, lost their baby Caitlin in 2006 after an emergency caesarean section at the hospital.
The distraught couple had to endure the trauma of burying their first-born – but over a year later they made the sorrowful journey to the graveyard again.
Some of the remains of the little baby had been retained at the hospital without their knowledge and returned to them in a coffin.
"It was horrendous – but that was just one of the series of nightmares we had to endure," Janice, a primary schoolteacher, told the Irish Independent.
Their case has now been referred to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), which is set to launch an investigation into care standards at Portlaoise Hospital, following a damning report into the deaths of four babies and the "appalling" treatment of their parents by staff.
Janice told how she had undergone a scan during her pregnancy in August 2006 and was given the all-clear for the baby who was due in October. But two weeks later she asked to be checked out at Portlaoise maternity unit.
"I was told I needed an emergency caesarean section or my baby would die. It was all very rushed and I did not even have time to call my husband.
"I was told sign on this yellow docket. They said there is no time, we have to go now or your baby will die.
"When I regained consciousness I was told my baby had died. I was later told she had Edward's syndrome."
Janice, who was a private patient, was placed in a single room on the same corridor as new mothers who had delivered healthy babies.
"The bedroom had no toilet and you had to walk to the toilet. I could hear the babies all the time. I broke down crying every night. You were told to keep quiet and you were disturbing the others.
"The porter staff kept coming in every night asking what milk my baby was on. They could have put some notice on the door to stop this.
"My husband was told the hospital does not provide coffins and he spent all day going around Portlaoise trying to get one. It was horrendous."
Janice had to stay in the hospital for five days. "They brought my baby in to me in a tin can with a white sheet over her, on a wheelchair," she recalled.
"I was made to feel that I wasn't the same as the other mothers whose babies were alive. I said 'I'm upset' and a nurse ushered me into a room, and I had a few hours with my baby."
Ten weeks after returning home she received a letter for what she thought was her delayed six-week check.
"I got a letter saying that I was dead. I had to ring the hospital and tell them that they had registered my own death."
Janice felt such grief and sorrow she wrote a four-page letter to the hospital outlining her ordeal. But she never got a proper apology.
More than a year later she was at work in Gaelcholaiste Kildare when a call came from the hospital asking her if she was the mother of Caitlin as they had her remains.
"I said remains, what remains. I buried my daughter a year-and-a-half ago. They said maybe they are body parts and tissue. I went into shock, I shook uncontrollably."
Janice became pregnant shortly after losing Caitlin and gave birth to Sean (6) and has since had another girl Ruby (4), both of whom were born in the Coombe.
"I believe it was my sporting background that helped me get through this psychologically. But when I was pregnant again I was a wreck for nine months," said Janice who played for Kildare in the All-Ireland Ladies Final in 2001.
She was inspired to write to Health Minister James Reilly and chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan on Monday after witnessing the emotional scenes at the launch of the Department of Health report on Portlaoise.
"I wrote the letter on Monday and received a reply on Wednesday from the minister and Dr Holohan," she said. "They were lovely letters thanking me for writing to them. They said they could not imagine how distressing it was. My case is now going to be sent to HIQA as part of their investigation."
A spokesman for the Department of Health said that Dr Holohan would refer information on any other cases relating to Portlaoise Hospital to HIQA as appropriate with their permission
A spokeswoman for the HSE said it was not in a position to comment on any individual case.
Should any additional serious incidents come to the attention of the HSE in relation to Portlaoise or any other service it would be assessed and reviewed in line with the appropriate policies and protocols, she said.