A widower whose wife died days after giving birth has told an inquest into her death he has lost the light of his life.
Dhara Kivlehan, 28 and originally from India, died from multi-organ failure in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital on 28 September 2010 after suffering a severe strain of pre-eclampsia.
She had been airlifted four days earlier from Sligo General Hospital.
As the full inquest into her death opened in Carrick-on-Shannon courthouse, Michael Kivlehan, 34, revealed the devastation his wife’s death has wreaked on him personally as he raises their son Dior.
In a statement read to the hearing, Mr Kivlehan said: “I lost the light of my life the day Dhara died.
“I do my best to raise Dior as a single dad but it’s difficult.”
A week shy of the four-year anniversary of his wife’s death, and a day after their son’s fourth birthday, Mr Kivlehan added from the witness box: “I need and Dior deserves answers to how Dhara died.”
A jury of five men and two women have been sworn in to hear several days of evidence on how Mrs Kivlehan died.
The jury heard the couple met while Mr Kivlehan was working in real estate in London and Dhara was studying fashion.
They moved to Co Leitrim for a quieter way of life and married in 2005 and planned to raise their family near where Mr Kivlehan was brought up in Dromahair, the inquest heard.
The couple ate only organic food, exercised regularly and neither of them drank or smoked, Mr Kivlehan said.
“It’s very important to me personally and for Dior to know what happened to his mother and my wife in Sligo General Hospital,” Mr Kivlehan told the inquest.
“I have had no answers of how our care was then, or now to this day. The ordeal I went through myself as a single dad, a first time dad – I, hand on heart, would not like any other man or child to be put in the same position and then left to deal with it.”
Mr Kivlehan and Dior were awarded almost €1m last year after the Health Service Executive (HSE) apologised for shortcomings in the young mother’s care.
He criticised the four-year delay in the inquest taking place.
Mr Kivlehan added: “It’s left a very bitter taste in my mouth, the struggle we have had just to get any bits of information of our care.”
He told the jury his wife was unrecognisable in the days before she was airlifted from Sligo to the Royal in Belfast.
Mr Kivlehan told the hearing that he told a senior doctor involved in her care in Sligo, Dr Seamus Crowley, that he believed his wife was jaundiced.
He said her entire body was swollen in the days after she underwent a caesarean section, that her skin was yellow and that her eyes were “the colour of a budgie”.
Mr Kivlehan said he had been told his wife would be taken to intensive care after the birth but was instead moved to a darkened maternity ward.
Adrienne Egan, senior counsel for the HSE, told the inquest Mrs Kivlehan was receiving “higher care” in the days after the birth.
She said this involved being cared for in a room beside the nurses’ station, a dedicated nurse to look after her, blood tests every three hours and observations every hour.
Twelve doctors and seven midwives were involved in Ms Kivlehan’s care in Sligo, as well as a number of doctors and nurses in Belfast.
Although Mrs Kivlehan died in Belfast, the inquest was moved to the Republic of Ireland amid concern that medics from Sligo could not be compelled north of the border, and after attorney general Maire Whelan intervened to ask Belfast coroner Dr John Leckey if he would agree to a change in jurisdiction.
Mrs Kivlehan was suffering from a severe variant of pre-eclampsia called Hellp (haemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelets) in Sligo.
The results of blood tests taken the afternoon she was admitted on September 20 2010, which showed “grossly abnormal liver function and grossly abnormal kidney function”, were not followed up by her doctors or reported back by the laboratory for another 12 hours.
Baby Dior was delivered by C-section shortly before 6am the following day.