A man whose wife and baby son died in tragic circumstances three years ago has told an inquest he was never informed by medical staff who looked after them that she had felt she might harm herself or her child.
A sitting of Dublin District Coroner’s Court heard medical notes had recorded that Nicola Keane (34) had told doctors at Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) in Crumlin just three months before her death that she was worried she “might do something” because of the regular crying of her baby boy.
Medical records showed Ms Keane had told a psychologist at the hospital that she had damaged her son who was “botched” but nobody would believe her and nothing could be done.
The inquest heard evidence that Ms Keane’s body was found on Lower Road, Strawberry Beds, Co Dublin in the early hours of October 22nd, 2020.
When gardaí called to the couple’s home at Shackleton Way, Lucan, Co Dublin, to alert her husband, Darren Coleman, about his wife’s death, he found their seven-month-old baby, Henry, in an unresponsive state in a spare upstairs bedroom of the house.
Mr Coleman told the inquest on Monday it “would scare me” if he had known his wife had told doctors she might harm their son.
He said he would never have considered returning to his teaching job if he had known she had said something like that.
Mr Coleman said Ms Keane had never said anything to him about the possibility of harming herself or their baby.
He also highlighted how he had never been contacted by any medical staff who treated his wife for her mental health issues. “At no stage was I ever asked for my opinion or asked if I was okay,” Mr Coleman said.
He described how he and his wife were teenage sweethearts who met in secondary school in Ballina, Co Mayo before they married in 2014. The couple subsequently moved to Dublin where they bought a house in Lucan. Ms Keane worked as a paediatric nurse in CHI Crumlin, while Mr Coleman had a job as a primary schoolteacher.
Mr Coleman said his son’s birth in February 2020 had been difficult and his wife had required an emergency Caesarean section. He said after they had been home for a while, their baby had become unsettled and had difficulty sleeping.
When the baby was admitted to CHI Crumlin because of concern over his constant irritability, Mr Coleman said they were informed it was “just a phase” and he would settle down.
However, he said his wife felt she had no bond with their son and believed he would not get better and would grow up an unsettled child.
The inquest heard that Ms Keane started seeing doctors in relation to her mental health at both CHI Crumlin and Cherry Orchard Hospital in Ballyfermot in July 2020.
In response to questions from the coroner, Dr Crona Gallagher, Mr Coleman said everything on the evening of October 21, 2022 had been fine and normal until Henry had become unsettled and started crying, with his wife taking the baby into a spare room. Mr Coleman said he offered to stay up with the baby but she insisted on doing it “but in a nice, not forced way.”
He said the next thing he remembered was the front door bell ringing and seeing blue flashing lights outside his house.
Mr Coleman said he immediately went to find his son after a garda informed him that they had found his wife’s car.
He said his son was “lifeless and floppy” on a bed when he grabbed him. “I knew he was dead. I could feel it,” he added.
Mr Coleman said his wife’s medication had been increased twice, with the last occasion in early October.
He outlined how he noticed a difference in his wife after that. She was “smiling more and talking more” as well as getting more sleep and appearing “a little bit more focused”.
His wife’s sister, Michelle Keane, said it was good news when both Nicola and her other sister, Siobhan, became pregnant in 2019 shortly after both their parents had died within a short space of time.
Ms Keane said she noticed her sister had become more withdrawn and was “a lot quieter” in the summer of 2020 and was more difficult “to get hold of” in calls and texts.
The witness told the coroner that she believed her sister played down her postnatal depression so that her family would not worry about her.
A consultant paediatrician, Una Murtagh, gave evidence about herself and other staff at CHI Crumlin becoming increasingly concerned about Ms Keane’s mental health while they were treating her baby.
However, Dr Murtagh said Ms Keane had denied ever having any intention of harming her baby.
The inquest heard Ms Keane had told a psychologist that her son did not like her and pulled away from her, while also wishing that she would not wake up.
“Something is broken that cannot be fixed,” she told one consultant.
The inquest continues on Tuesday.
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