Husband tells inquest of ‘chaos’ at hospital as wife prepared for birth

A husband has claimed that minutes after a mother preparing to give birth was given a pain-killing injection following a flare-up between doctors, “chaos” erupted and medical staff rushed around in a panic.

Husband tells inquest of ‘chaos’ at hospital as wife prepared for birth

Sean Rowlette said one doctor became aggressive and pushed another out of the way before injecting the drug.

He was giving evidence at an inquest into the death of wife Sally a day after she gave birth in February last year to their fourth child, Sally Jr.

He said that just before 20ml of Pethidine was administered, there was a heated discussion between two doctors over the correct dosage.

A male doctor who had joined Sligo Regional Hospital three weeks earlier insisted it should be 20ml, while a female doctor said the correct dosage was 4ml.

Mr Rowlette, a father of four who fought back tears during his evidence, told the inquest the male doctor aggressively grabbed the syringe, pushed the other doctor out of the way, and administered the 20ml dosage of Pethidine to Sally.

“Approximately 15 minutes later, chaos erupted and staff rushed around in a panic,” Mr Rowlette said.

“I asked what was wrong and was told that the baby’s heartbeat had dropped to 40 and Sally needed to go to theatre for an emergency C-section.”

Obstetrics registrar Dr Ahmed Koura was on duty when Sally was admitted and said he was the doctor whom Mr Rowlette said had had a dispute with Dr Sinead McDermott over the correct level of drug to be administered. Mr Rowlette said: “Dr Ahmed aggressively grabbed the syringe, pushed Dr Sinead McDermott out of the way, and administered the 20ml dosage of Pethidine to Sally.”

Dr Koura told the inquest that Dr McDermott was one of his best friends in the hospital. He said he believed Mr Rowlette had “misunderstood” what happened when he and Dr McDermott tried to get access to a vein to administer the drug. Dr Koura said Dr McDermott had some difficulty because the patient was vomiting.

“I asked Sinead if she needed any help and she said she was happy. She tried one more time. Then I tried to take over. I was trying to save the patient’s life.”

Pathologist Dr Clive Kilgallen told the inquest his postmortem showed death was caused by brain haemorrhage due to HELLP syndrome and preeclampsia.

Mr Rowlette, aged 39, of Croagh, Dromore West, Co Sligo, then told coroner Eamon MacGowan and a jury of difficulties in moving Sally’s bed to an eighth-floor operating theatre.

No porter was available to assist, so he helped nurses with the transfer, and the lift seemed to stop at every level on the way to the eighth floor. When they got to the eighth, one of the nurses became lodged between Sally’s bed and trolleys in the corridor and exclaimed in pain as she fell back on a trolley.

After she had given birth, Sally was transferred to the intensive care unit as her blood pressure was high.

Mr Rowlette said: “I was not given any cause for worry at this point. However, as time passed, Sally began to visibly get weaker.”

He noted that one doctor claimed that Sally inquired as to whether she may have been affected by HELLP syndrome, a severe form of pre-eclampsia, a high blood pressure pregnancy disorder.

Mr Rowlette told the inquest: “This is untrue. At this time, Sally could not even answer me when I asked her what she wanted to name our child. She was very weak, and could not have a simple conversation with me, let alone a detailed discussion with a doctor about medical matters.”

From his experience when he was present during Sally’s three other pregnancies, he believed something was not normal this time.

Mum told of ‘kidney stones’

Sean Rowlette told the inquest there were complications during wife Sally’s pregnancy with their second child, Abbie, now aged 7.

Sally had severe pain before going into labour, but they were told this was caused by kidney stones she passed during labour.

Sally spent 24 hours under observation for high blood pressure in ICU after Abbie’s birth. “At no point were we told not to have more children or that there were any increased risks associated with this,” Mr Rowlette told the inquest yesterday.

At 12.30am on February 4 last year, Sally had frequent contractions and they went to hospital. Shortly after they arrived, just after 1am, the dispute flared between the two doctors over the correct dose of the painkiller.

Some hours later in the ICU, he saw obstetrician Dr Heather Langan and realised something was wrong.

The doctor said they were working on Sally’s blood pressure. Later she told him Sally had a stroke and he should contact family members. He said: “I knew this was serious, but no one mentioned a risk of death.”

He was then told that Sally had suffered a bleed on her brain. A doctor mentioned the possibility of transfer to Dublin. Sally was put on a ventilator and, at 11am the next day, February 5, doctors said she was brain-dead.

Consultant anaesthetist Dr Seamus Crowley told him Sally had HELLP syndrome and that she had had this during her second pregnancy with Abbie.

Mr Rowlette said later that he spoke to Dr Murshid Ismail, Sally’s main gynaecologist but who was not on duty when she was admitted to hospital. Dr Ismail seemed upset at what had happened. He said the other doctors had diagnosed Sally with HELLP but he did not agree. He felt there “was something else at play” and would investigate and that he “wished to prove something”.

He was later told that Dr Ismail resigned from the Sligo hospital three weeks after Sally’s death.

The inquest is expected to run for most of this week.

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