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Emotional Mother of tragic newborn boy breaks down in tears at inquest into his death

How could a normal pregnancy end with us not taking our son home in a car seat and instead in a tiny white coffin,” Gráinne Somers asked

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Mother Grainne Somers leaving the inquest. Photo: Collins

Mother Grainne Somers leaving the inquest. Photo: Collins

Mother Grainne Somers leaving the inquest. Photo: Collins

A mother, whose baby boy died as a result of complications at birth, broke down in tears at an inquest as she recalled knowing something was wrong but not being given any information at the time by medical staff at St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny.

Dublin District Coroner’s Court heard emotional evidence from Gráinne Somers from Kilkenny of the circumstances of how her baby son Laurence died on January 28, 2018 – five days after she underwent an emergency Caesarean section when she was 11 days overdue.

“How could a normal pregnancy end with us not taking our son home in a car seat and instead in a tiny white coffin?” she asked.

Ms Somers criticised how she and her husband, Laurence, were not informed at the time how seriously ill their son was or that he had to be resuscitated at birth.

The inquest heard the baby died in the Coombe Hospital in Dublin, where he had been transferred for specialist cooling therapy which was later withdrawn.

Ms Somers recalled holding her son for the first and last time after the couple had to make the “devastating decision” to switch off their son’s life support.

She told the inquest how baby Laurence died in her arms an hour later, leaving them “heartbroken and in disbelief”.

Professor John O’Leary, who carried out an autopsy on baby Laurence’s body, said Ms Somers essentially had a normal pregnancy up to the time of delivery.

Prof O’Leary said the cause of the baby’s death was severe hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy (brain damage due to a lack of supply of oxygen and blood) with the evidence suggesting such injuries occurred during or around the time of Laurence’s delivery.

The pathologist said the baby had also suffered foetal distress and persistent high blood pressure, while a contributory factor was portal vein thrombosis (a blood clot in the vein between the liver and intestines).

In evidence, Ms Somers said her family had waited a long time for answers to find out what happened.

Ms Somers said she raised the issue about the plan of care for her pregnancy at every hospital visit as she was “frightened” after being advised early in her second pregnancy that she had antibodies which could cause anaemia in her baby.

“I was not given any advice or support on the issue,” Ms Somers said.

She added: “I was not provided with any information that would help me understand the risks, alternatives or the consequences of any decisions made or not made throughout my pregnancy, labour and birth and in particular in relation to the decision to allow my pregnancy continue past 40 weeks’ gestation.”

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Ms Somers said she was in complete shock when sent home after a visit to St Luke’s on January 22, 2018, when she was 10 days overdue as she understood from a previous visit that she would be induced that day.

Ms Somers said she returned to the hospital the following day at 10.30am as she was suffering increasing pains but had to wait some time to be assessed.

She told the inquest that the room of doctors and midwives “erupted into a frenzy of panicked activity” when informed she was in labour and that her waters would have to be broken.

Fighting back tears, she recalled: “During this time, nobody explained to me what was going on.”

Ms Somers said a doctor who asked her to sign something quickly seemed “tense or panicked”.

“The atmosphere in the room was awful and I’ve never felt so terrified on my own. I was extremely frightened as I thought at the time that something was wrong but no one would tell me anything,” she added.

Ms Somers said she ultimately learned her son was born at 11.56am in an asphyxiated state.

She said her husband was told by a consultant that what happened their baby was “like a cot death in the womb”.

Following Laurence’s birth, Ms Somers recalled waking up in horrific pain in a recovery room and being told that he “needed some TLC”.

“When I asked how my baby was, I received no answer and the staff just walked away from me,” Ms Somers said.

The first time she saw her son was when he was brought into her room in an incubator at 8pm that evening before being transferred to the Coombe Hospital.

She described how “devastating” it was to spend a night in a labour ward with the sound of other babies crying while her own son was miles away.

“Not knowing how my son was, I was traumatised at the thoughts of him being so far away from me,” she remarked.

Ms Somers said her son’s situation deteriorated on January 28, 2018, after he had suffered a seizure and they were informed that further intensive care would be futile.

Several weeks later, as she had not heard anything further from the hospital, Ms Somers said she had sought a meeting with consultant obstetrician Ray O’Sullivan, who was in charge of her care.

She told her counsel, Sara Antoniotti BL, that she had never seen the consultant during her pregnancy and “just wanted to know what happened”.

Ms Somers said it was “quite devastating” to be informed about two days before the scheduled meeting that Prof O’Sullivan would not be available.

When she arrived at the hospital for a rearranged meeting some days later, Ms Somers said she knew from the reaction of the staff member who met her that the consultant was not in the hospital.

“That really hurt because I thought I had done something wrong,” she added.

Ms Somers said she felt it was “really inappropriate” that another doctor at the meeting had informed her that staff were also busy at the time of her delivery as another baby and its mother had died in theatre.

The inquest heard the hospital’s then policy of carrying out an ultrasound on pregnant women who were 10 days overdue was not performed on Ms Somers.

Professor Martin White, a consultant neonatologist at the Coombe Hospital, said baby Laurence had been adequately stabilised prior to his transfer from St Luke’s.

Prof White said the baby had experienced “an acute event” but there was no evidence to suggest it had happened days before his birth.

The hearing before coroner Dr Crona Gallagher will continue on Tuesday.

At the outset of the inquest, Dr Gallagher acknowledged the patience and understanding of the family in waiting for their case to come before Dublin Coroner’s Court.

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