Clare art exhibition to highlight maternal deaths
The Courthouse Gallery event tells the stories of women who died during childbirth
Michael Kivlehan with his wife Dhara who died a week after giving birth to her first child. Ms Kivlehan’s story is just one of those highlighted at a new exhibition that runs in the Courthouse Gallery in Ennistymon, Co Clare, until Saturday
‘Picking up the Threads’ is about remembering the women, who died due to “medical misadventure”.
On September 28th, six years ago, Dhara Kivlehan died – a week after giving birth to her first child, Dior.
Dhara was 28 years old and had been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia just hours before her son was delivered by Caesarean section. However, this diagnosis came too late to save her life as, according to an inquest two years ago, medical misadventure led to her death.
“My wife was a strong, healthy woman full of life and hope for the future,” says her widower, Michael Kivlehan.
“She had a good job, was so looking forward to being a mother and making a life for ourselves here as we hadn’t been back in Leitrim very long.
“We moved back to Ireland from London as we thought it would be a better place to raise a child – but neither of us ever imagined that a few days after he was born, she would no longer be with us.”
There will a screening of a documentary, Picking up the Threads, which will be followed by an informal discussion with film-maker Anne Marie Green and Dr Jo Murphy-Lawless.
Along with oil-painted portraits of eight women who died either during or after childbirth, the exhibition also features a knitted quilt that was created to commemorate the lives of women whose deaths were recorded as “medical mis-adventure”.
Hosted by the Elephant Collective, which is made up of a group of midwives, educators and birth activists, the purpose of the event is to raise awareness of the tragedy of maternal death and the need for legislation to ensure an automatic inquest in the event of all deaths of this nature.
“We call ourselves the Elephant Collective because when an elephant is giving birth, the herd surround her and keep her and her calf safe,” says organiser Martina Hynan, a portrait artist.
“We are lobbying for automatic inquests into maternal deaths be included in the new coroner’s Bill and TD Clare Daly is helping with that.”
In September 2014, a jury reached the verdict that Ms Kivlehan died due to medical misadventure.
Mr Kivlehan says although he welcomed that the “truth about her death was revealed”, much remains to be done to ensure no one else goes through the ordeal he and his son have.
“Dior has just turned six and he is growing up without a mother; he shouldn’t have to go through that,” he says.
“He asks me why Mammy is in heaven and I don’t know what to tell him because she should not have died like that and if I told him the truth it would scare the life out of him.”
“The maternity services in Ireland need to be sorted out
“...The midwives know what to do, but because they have to wait for instruction from above, things get delayed – this is inexcusable.
“Ministers have promised myself and seven other widowers that automatic inquests after a maternal death will happen, but nothing has changed and until this happens, we are not going to let this campaign die.”
Mr Kivlehan and the husbands of the other women featured at the exhibition say they will not let their wives’ deaths be in vain.
“These women bring the next generation into our country so they need to be looked after. There should automatically be a bed in ICU to deal with critical cases like Dhara – she was given a bed only to be taken out of it a short while later because someone who was passing away needed to be put in a quiet place – this sort of thing is appalling.
“I, and many other men, have been left without wives and our children left without mothers – it may be too late for us, but we are determined to do what we can to help others.”