Mum was told newborn was dying in her arms

As a mother kissed her newborn baby in St Munchin’s Regional Maternity Hospital in Limerick, she was told her daughter was dying in her arms, an inquest heard.

Mum was told newborn was dying in her arms

Joan Mulcair yesterday recalled her living nightmare, following the birth of her first baby, Caoimhe.

Ms Mulcair of Westbury, Corbally, Limerick, told an inquest into Caoimhe’s death at Limerick City Coroners Court that due to medical problems, and after fertility treatment, she and husband John were delighted when she was told that she was pregnant with an “extra special baby” in 2008.

On February 11, 2009, she felt cramps and when they got worse, she went to the hospital where she was admitted at 6pm.

Her waters broke when she was in the toilet of the reception area and she was taken to the delivery room.

She was told everything was alright. Dr Mary Higgins told her they would have to perform a vacuum birth. After the delivery there was no sound of the babying crying and then there was panic. She was told the baby was being taken to the special care unit and not to worry.

Some time later, she went to the special care unit in a wheelchair with John. The nurses were very quiet and did not give any information. She picked the baby up from a cot and kissed her. As she did so, somebody said the baby was dying in her arms.

Caoimhe Mulcair

“It was a nightmare. I said I can’t believe it. I could not believe this was happening to us. It is very difficult to describe the pain,” she said.

Midwife Patricia Lenihan told how she was very surprised at the outcome.

Asked if the baby’s heart tracing scans were misinterpreted, Ms Lenihan said she had worked in a labour ward for some years and saw traces like those taken from Caoimhe all the time and they did not have the outcome as happened with this birth.

Eileen Conway, clinical midwife manager, said Ms Mulcair was an emergency admission because of a deceleration in the foetal heartbeat and was brought straight to the labour ward.

Ms Conway said they had to be very careful when there was a drop in a baby’s heart beat and it had to be monitored very carefully.

Dr Higgins said she was the registrar on duty and was alerted by a nurse to Ms Mulcair’s condition.

Due to trace from a heart scan, she decided to move Ms Mulcair to a labour ward immediately.

The baby’s heartbeat trace then returned to normal. She decided to perform an instrumental delivery and Ms Mulcair’s condition was taken very seriously.

Dr Higgins said she had delivered babies safely in similar circumstances and Caoimhe’s birth was one where she would not have expected what was to happen after she was delivered.

An examination after Caoimhe was born made them realise how sick a baby she was. A medical note by another doctor said Caoimhe had a lack of oxygen which reduced the blood flow to her brain and blood analysis showed a condition which occurs when a baby is deprived of oxygen in labour.

Dr Jamaleddin Abujennah said he was a consultant on call at two hospitals on the day of Ms Mulcair’s admission to St Munchin’s Regional Maternity Hospital.

He received an emergency call from the labour ward after resuscitation on a baby was not successful. He went to the intensive care unit and the baby was 24 minutes old at this time.

They continued to try and resuscitate the baby, but got no responses. At 27 minutes old, there was no heartbeat and the resuscitation was discontinued.

When the parents arrived at the intensive care unit, the baby was given to them to hold.

He said when Caoimhe was born, her umbilical cord was around her neck. She was in very poor condition and was gasping for breath.

Pathologist, Dr Peter Faul, who carried out a postmortem, said Caoimhe was a perfectly normal baby, whose organs were normal and he could not find any anatomical cause of death.

Lorraine Scully, counsel for the Mulcairs, asked the jury to return a verdict of medical misadventure as deceleration of the baby’s heart were visible and indicative that something was going on which, had it been picked up, there might have been a different outcome.

Professor Colette Cowan, CEO of University of Limerick Hospitals group, had a letter from her to the Mulcairs read out in which she apologised to the couple for the failings in the care provided to both of them and to Caoimhe and for the subsequent upset and distress they have both experienced.

Coroner John McNamara said this letter from Ms Cowan had changed how he was going to address the jury. He said in his opinion the verdict should be one of medical misadventure.

A verdict of medical misadventure was returned by the jury.

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