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'We had no answers' - Mother of Portlaoise Hospital's 'Baby X' speaks of heartbreak


Sharon McCarthy on Prime Time

Sharon McCarthy on Prime Time

Sharon McCarthy on Prime Time

THE mother of one of the babies whose deaths at Portlaoise Hospital in 2006 has spoken for the first time of her deep sadness and upset at her baby’s death.

Sharon McCarthy, mother of the infant referred to as ‘Baby X,’  told Prime Time’s Miriam O’Callaghan of her family’s struggle to uncover the truth following her baby Katelyn’s death.

Two weeks ago the RTÉ Investigations Unit revealed details of deaths of a number of babies who died either during labour or shortly after at the Maternity Unit in Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise.

During its investigation, RTÉ discovered that the HSE carried out reviews into the circumstances of three maternity cases at the hospital, listed on Prime Time as Baby X, Baby Y and Baby Z.

Katelyn died in 2006, Baby Y  - Joshua Keyes - was identified in the programme, and Baby Z, born in 2010, survived. At the time of RTÉ’s broadcast the families of Baby X and Baby Z had not been told of investigations into their cases.

Dr Philip Crowley of the HSE told the RTÉ programme at the time that “in very very rare exceptions there may be instances where because of particular social circumstances that the family are not informed.”

Following the broadcast of the RTÉ Fatal Failures programme, Sharon McCarthy discovered that her baby daughter was Baby X. She was not aware her case was the subject of an investigation and only received the copy of the report a few days ago, over six years after her baby’s death.

Mrs McCarthy told Miriam O’Callaghan in tonight’s broadcast: “When she was born I just knew straight away something was wrong, she was completely purple and they all started rushing around, and I could hear a little vacuum which I know now was a suction machine. I said to them ‘what’s wrong’ and I was getting no answers. “

The baby was taken to a special care unit. Later, she was informed her daughter had brain damage.

 “You have to listen to doctors telling you that your daughter won’t live past 10 months old, which was extremely hard for me because my first baby, I loved her just the same as any other mother would love there baby, if not more because she was special to me,” said Sharon.

She said she and her husband Thomas sought answers from the hospital but with little success, even after engaging a solicitor.  Her solicitor “hit a brick wall” in her efforts to find out fully what happened to Katelyn.

“We were walking on eggshells basically and blaming each other about what happen. We had no answers whatsoever...... and then knowing nothing in the last seven years to knowing everything in the space of a week.”

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She said her sister Sabrina was watching the Prime Time programme two weeks ago and became upset because the ‘Baby X’ circumstances seemed very familiar. The hospital contacted the family a week ago to confirm Katelyn was Baby X.

Mrs McCarthy said she was shocked to discover later that Baby X in the programme was Katelyn. She and her husband have since had meetings with hospital and HSE officials.

She said the investigation has made a big difference as she and her husband had blamed themselves.  She felt some sense of closure after seven years but she said she wants justice as well.

A key recommendation in a series of reviews carried out on the deaths of the babies in Portlaoise Hospital was the introduction of foetal blood testing which helps doctors and nurses know if a baby is getting enough oxygen while their mother is in labour. Earlier this month that test was introduced to the last maternity unit in the country to be left without the procedure.

The chief medical officer is now reviewing the deaths in Portlaoise Hospital and it is expected this will be referred to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).


Alan O’Keeffe

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