Wife was ‘unrecognisable’ hours after baby was born

Husband of Dhara Kivlehan says consultant told him she would be ‘fine’

The widower of a young woman who died a week after giving birth in Sligo Regional hospital recalled yesterday that she was unrecognisable hours after the baby was born.

Michael Kivlehan (35) told the coroner's court in Carrick-on-Shannon that when he saw his wife Dhara hours after their son Dior was born, her entire body was swollen and her skin had an orange/yellow tone. A consultant told him that she would be "fine".

Dhara Kivlehan (29) died in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital on September 28th, 2010, four days after being airlifted from Sligo hospital where she had given birth to her first baby.

"I lost the light of my life the day Dhara died," Mr Kivlehan said. The couple had met in London, but had settled in Dromahair, Co Leitrim.

Roger Murray, solicitor for the Kivlehan family, pointed out that the inquest was starting the day after Dior's fourth birthday and that by a "coincidence of fate" Ms Kivlehan's anniversary occurs this week.

Mr Kivlehan said he was there because he and Dior deserved answers.

His wife was due to be induced on September 22nd, but was admitted to Sligo hospital two days earlier with abdominal pain and swollen ankles. Her medical chart could not be found for two hours, he said.

She was eventually admitted and he went to work, but got a call from the hospital in the early hours.

[CROSSHEAD]Consent form [/CROSSHEAD]He was asked to sign a consent form and when he went to read it, was told it was urgent. His wife was suffering from Hellp (Haemolysis, Elevated Liver Enzymes and Low Platelets, which is associated with severe pre-eclampsia) and needed to have a Caesarean section.

Mr Kivlehan was told his wife would be going to the ICU after the operation .

He did not see her until 11.30am and was surprised that she was back in the maternity ward and not the ICU. Ms Kivlehan was in a darkened room, and was completely unrecognisable.

Her face was puffy, her entire body was swollen and she had a jaundiced look. He pointed out the colour of her skin to staff.

Mr Kivlehan said he asked Dr Séamus Crowley if his wife had jaundice and was told it was hard to tell with someone who was Indian.

“I was too stunned to respond,” he said.

Adrienne Egan SC, for the HSE, told the inquest that Dr Crowley was upset by this testimony and would say that he told Mr Kivlehan that jaundice was easier to diagnose in someone with a pale complexion and that blood tests were the way to diagnose the condition.

Mr Kivlehan said his wife was transferred to the ICU after two days and he was told that the worst-case scenario was that she would need kidney dialysis.

[CROSSHEAD]Told she would die [/CROSSHEAD]The following day he was told “it was most likely Dhara would die”.

The inquest also heard that when Mr Kivlehan left his wife’s bedside hoping to speak to doctors, a nurse told him to “stop eavesdropping”.

She grabbed him by the arm “quite forcefully” and told him if he wanted to make himself useful he could get his wife a drink.

He was gone for 15 minutes and when he came back the doctors were gone.

In his statement, Mr Kivlehan said he and his wife had an extremely healthy lifestyle, they neither drank nor smoked and they ate organic food .

Ms Kivlehan was five feet tall and weighed 7½ stone.

She began taking folic acid as soon as she learned she was pregnant.

The inquest continues tomorrow morning.