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'Very unusual' Inquest unable to tell how baby who died 19 hours after birth suffered brain damage

Several medical experts gave evidence at Dublin District Coroner’s Court that it was the most unusual case of an infant’s death they had ever come across in their long careers.

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Kevin and Karen Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy

Kevin and Karen Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy

Kevin and Karen Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy

An inquest has been unable to establish the exact cause of how a baby girl, who showed no warning signs of any life-threatening condition, acquired severe brain damage which resulted in her death within 19 hours of her birth.

The inquiry into the death of Sophie Kennedy, who was born following a “textbook” pregnancy at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin on March 5, 2018 heard the cause of the brain damage suffered by the baby could not be determined.

Several medical experts gave evidence at Dublin District Coroner’s Court that it was the most unusual case of an infant’s death they had ever come across in their long careers.

The two-day inquest heard that Sophie’s mother, Karen Kennedy, had enjoyed an uneventful pregnancy with her first child but needed an instrumental delivery following an episiotomy after there was no progress after one and three quarters hours of active labour.

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Kevin and Karen Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy pictured leaving the Dublin District  Coroner's Court this afternoon

Kevin and Karen Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy pictured leaving the Dublin District Coroner's Court this afternoon

Kevin and Karen Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy pictured leaving the Dublin District Coroner's Court this afternoon

The coroner, Dr Myra Cullinane, returned a narrative verdict outlining the circumstances of how baby Sophie was born and died 19 hours later in her mother’s arms on March 6, 2018 after medical care was withdrawn.

Dr Cullinane said the cause of death was acute brain damage superimposed on chronic brain damage whose origins could not be determined.

A neuropathologist, Jane Cryan, said she had found abnormalities in Sophie’s brain on multiple sites resulting from gliosis, calcification of the brain and a lack of blood and oxygen during an autopsy but it had not been possible to determine their cause.

Dr Cryan said gliosis – a condition causing scar tissue on the brain – would have occurred at least five days before Sophie’s birth.

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 Karen and Kevin Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy pictured leaving the inquest into the death of their daughter  who died on 6th March 2018 at the National Maternity Hospital at Dublin District Coroner's Court...Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Karen and Kevin Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy pictured leaving the inquest into the death of their daughter who died on 6th March 2018 at the National Maternity Hospital at Dublin District Coroner's Court...Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Karen and Kevin Kennedy, parents of baby Sophie Kennedy pictured leaving the inquest into the death of their daughter who died on 6th March 2018 at the National Maternity Hospital at Dublin District Coroner's Court...Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Another pathologist, Eoghan Mooney, said he had not seen such profound and chronic brain damage in over 20 years in a case he described as “very unusual.”

Dr Mooney said he had been able to exclude a virus, congenital diseases or a disease of the placenta from what happened.

“It is not an easy case to unravel,” he added.

A consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Jennani Magandran, who helped deliver Sophie, said she had no concern about the baby’s well being, although she acknowledged there had been poor quality recordings of the baby’s heartbeat in the hour before her delivery.

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Dr Magandran said her only concern was the lack of progress in delivery as the baby’s heartbeat was audible.

She admitted the poor condition in which doctors found Sophie after her birth was “very unexpected.”

Dr Magandran said she would never forget the birth as Sophie’s hair was “hanging out” of her mother’s body she was that close to being delivered naturally.

Consultant neonatologist, Anne Twomey, described how it had taken around 20 minutes to resuscitate Sophie after she was born with no detectable heartbeat.

Dr Twomey said a failure to intubate the baby girl on the first attempt was not unusual and she did not believe it had any impact on the outcome.

Based on the post mortem findings, the consultant said she believed what happened to Sophie was unrelated to any event in the two hours prior to her birth.

Dr Twomey rejected the suggestion by solicitor for the Kennedy family, Roger Murray, that active interventions to resuscitate Sophie only happened after she arrived in the hospital.

She said other medical staff were not waiting for her but were following a protocol by placing the initial focus on establishing airways for the baby.

Mr Murray said the “conundrum” for Sophie’s parents was how all the CTG readings which monitored the baby’s heart rate were reassuring during labour and showed no signs of the brain damage she had actually suffered.

Dr Twomey admitted she would have expected to see something on the tracing which would have pointed at something being wrong.

The consultant said she believed Sophie suffered a significant brain injury before her mother went into labour but admitted she had never encountered such a case in over 27 years as a doctor.

Offering her sympathy and condolences to Sophie’s parents, Dr Cullinane noted they had good news with the birth of a daughter in 2019 but acknowledged they would still never come to terms with the loss of their firstborn through such a tragic death.

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