tragedy | 

Mum and baby died within hours of each other after she had seizure at hospital

Woman collapsed on top of her four-day-old son, inquest is told
Marie Downey and her son Darragh Downey, who both died in tragic circumstances in 2019.

Marie Downey and her son Darragh Downey, who both died in tragic circumstances in 2019.

Olivia Kelleher

A four-day old boy suffered an irreversible brain injury after his mother had an epileptic seizure, collapsed out of her bed and pinned the child underneath her, an inquest has heard.

Baby Darragh and his mother, Marie Downey, of Knockanevin, Co Cork, died within 33 hours of each other at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH).

Mrs Downey, who had an uncomplicated pregnancy, suffered from epilepsy and had a seizure possibly while breastfeeding her infant in her hospital bed in her private room.

The 36-year-old was found dead on the floor of her room shortly after 8am on March 25, 2019.

Dr Keelin O’Donoghue, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at CUMH, treated Mrs Downey for all three of her pregnancies.

During her first pregnancy, she suffered a seizure at 30 weeks and decided to go back on medication for her epilepsy prescribed for her by her neurologist Dr Peter Kinirons.

Mrs Downey had gone off her medication for a period amid her concerns about taking it during pregnancy.

Dr O’Donoghue said they had discussed the risks of her not being on anti-convulsant medication.

They were both happy with her returning to her medication and she was diligent about taking her tablets.

Mrs Downey took the medication through her subsequent two pregnancies.

Dr O’Donoghue said she had experience in dealing with women who suffer from epilepsy and their care during pregnancy.

The hearing in Cork was told that during Mrs Downey’s third pregnancy in 2018, she told Dr O’Donoghue at a 12-week appointment that she had an appointment with Dr Kinirons in January 2019.

Mrs Downey, however, did not make the appointment because of important family events.

Dr O’Donoghue said she regretted not asking Mrs Downey if she had attended the appointment and conceded it was an “oversight” for her not to have written to the neurologist about the care of her patient.

She said she “made the assumption” that Mrs Downey had attended the appointment.

The doctor said she was shocked when it subsequently emerged the neurologist had not even been aware of the third pregnancy.

Dr O’Donoghue said she was conscious that fatigue and stress were “precipitators for seizures” in Mrs Downey and that breastfeeding could also have been stressful for her.

She described what happened to mother and baby as “shocking and unexpected” and she again extended her condolences to Kieran Downey, the widower of Mrs Downey.

She told the court how before the tragedy Mrs Downey was breastfeeding and “keen to get home”.

Dr Brendan Murphy, a consultant neonatalogist at CUMH, said baby Darragh suffered a brain injury known as hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy after his mother collapsed on him.

When the baby was found under his mother by paediatric staff, every effort was made to resuscitate him, the court heard.

He received comprehensive medical intervention including intubation. He also received adrenaline and fluid and chest compressions. When his oxygen saturation improved he was transferred to the neonatal intensive care.

Doctors determined Darragh was “clinically comatose”, having sustained an “irreversible brain injury”.

Dr Murphy offered his condolences to Mr Downey. “He never regained consciousness. There was no suffering,” Dr Murphy said.

The inquest continues .

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