A DOCTOR dismissed a visual diagnosis of jaundice in an Indian woman who later died, an inquest has heard.
Michael Kivlehan (35), from Dromahair, Co Leitrim, made the allegation during an inquest into the death of his "light of my life" wife who died four years ago.
Dhara Kivlehan (29) died in September 2010 at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast eight days after giving birth to her son, Dior, at Sligo General Hospital. Dior was four on Sunday. The High Court awarded her husband Michael and Dior €800,000 in damages last December.
At an inquest into her death at Carrick on Shannon Court yesterday, Michael recounted how he raised concerns with medical staff in Sligo over the care of his wife in the hours after she gave birth by caesarean section on September 20, 2010.
In mid-August 2010, he said his wife began suffering severe abdominal pains and bleeding and had attended the hospital.
Mr Kivlehan told Sligo/Leitrim coroner Dr Eamonn McGowan that his fight to have an inquest had left "a bitter taste" and that he had "struggled" to find out even small details about his care at Sligo General.
Mr Kivlehan said that he was surprised to find his wife in a room on the maternity ward in Sligo just after the birth of their son Dior, saying he had been told by a member of medical staff that she was being transferred to ICU for treatment.
He said he complained several times about his wife's care. Dhara was swollen and her skin looked jaundiced. "She looked like a budgie," he said, recalling how he complained his wife hadn't been moved to ICU. He had spoken with Dr Seamus Crowley about his wife's care.
"I then asked this doctor (Dr Crowley) whether or not in his opinion Dhara looked jaundiced. I told the doctor that it was my opinion that Dhara was jaundiced.
"In response to this, the doctor told me it was hard to tell if Dhara had jaundice because she was Indian. I was too stunned to respond," said Mr Kivlehan.
Barrister for the HSE Adrienne Egan however put it to Mr Kivlehan that his wife was given a higher level of care in a private room in the maternity ward.
Ms Egan also said the medic at the centre of the comments on his wife's complexion was "extremely upset" at the interpretation of his comments.
Dr Seamus Crowley, said Ms Egan, had at that stage already seen liver tests which had shown Dhara probably was jaundiced. He had simply pointed out that diagnosing the illness on sight of a patient was much easier for people with paler skins than it was with people from Asia, said Ms Egan.
Mr Kivlehan said he had been told that an ICU bed was available but it was being kept free in the event of it being needed by someone involved in a road traffic accident.
"I lost the light of my life the day Dhara died," said Michael."I do my best to raise Dior as a single dad, but it is a struggle.
"Our beautiful baby boy should have been the start of something wonderful.
"I need, and Dior deserves, answers as to why Dhara died."
Under cross-examination, Belfast pathologist Dr Brian Herron agreed th at Mrs Kivlehan's death was unusual. He said it was the first case he had come across in the past 10 years.
The hearing before a jury of five men and two women continues tomorrow with Dr McGowan telling them that a verdict of medical misadventure was open to them.