Court case over baby's death begins
A hospital's decision to send a critically-ill pregnant woman on a two hour journey in an ambulance without the necessary blood on board for a transfusion resulted in her baby being still-born, the High Court was told today.
If the ambulance was equipped with blood and staff to administer it, dentist Fiona Ni Chonchubhair’s second child Aodh would have survived and she would not have suffered the shock, trauma and anger resulting from his death, the court heard.
Ms Ni Chonchubhair (36), who was almost 32 weeks pregnant and bleeding internally, was sent by ambulance from Kerry General Hospital in Tralee on a 71 mile journey to Cork Regional Hospital. When the ambulance arrived at CRH, it took another 15 to 20 minutes for the crew to locate the accident and emergency unit, the court heard.
Ms Ni Chonchubhair, Countess Road, Killarney, Co Kerry, was operated on and received six units of blood to replace what she had lost but the transfusion was too late for her baby who was delivered still-born by emergency caesarean section on May 16th, 2009.
Today, on the opening day of Ms Ni Chonchubhair’s action against the HSE alleging negligence and breach of duty, Emily Egan SC, for the HSE, offered an apology for what had happened to Ms Mi Chonchubhair and her husband Stephen Cotter.
Liability has been admitted in the case which is before Mr Justice Sean Ryan for assessment of damages only.
The court was told the HSE had carried out an internal review of what happened to Ms Ni Conchubhair and had made 12 recommendations to ensure it would not recur.
However, she told the court she lacked any confidence the recommendations would be followed.
In her action, Ms Ni Conchubhair, who gave up her job as a dentist and is a full-time mother of three and pregnant with her fourth child, is claiming damages for severe personal injury and shock.
She claims she continues to experience flashbacks of the trauma she underwent and has intermittent outbursts of anger, emotional detachment, broken sleep, poor concentration and loss of interest.
She experiences anger towards the hospital and feelings that what had happened should never have happened, her counsel Eugene Gleeson SC told the court.
Had she received a transfusion en route, she would have suffered a less severe level of hypovolaemic shock which had resulted in the baby not getting enough oxygen, he said.
It was their case there was a “tragedy of errors” which began with the decision to transfer a criticially ill woman to another hospital in an ambulance which did not have cross-matched blood on board, compounded by a 20-minute delay in finding accident and emergency, counsel said.
Ms Ni Conchhubhair told the court she became so anxious to avoid a repetition of what happened that, for the last three months of her two last pregnancies, she had rented a house in Cork to make sure she would be near Cork Regional and not Kerry General.
Her husband Stephen, an orthodontist, told Mr Justice Ryan that, as health professionals, their confidence in general had been “shattered” by the experience.
It was left to him to break the news of Aodh’s death to his wife, he said. He had brought the baby in and asked her what she wanted to call him. “There was a couple of names and she said Aodh”, he said.
His wife “was a shell”, she was “white and spaced out and when she saw Aodh, she could not understand it, it was disbelief that he was taken away.”
Before this happened, his wife was a happy go lucky person but subsequently she gave up socialising and did not like to go out, particularly around Tralee where she felt she might meet doctors and midwives, he said.
The hearing continues.