A heavily pregnant woman collapsed as she left hospital and her baby died hours later after being turned away by an accident and emergency department.
The mum, who was 33 weeks pregnant, arrived at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospital Trust’s A&E department by ambulance after being poorly for several weeks and feeling short of breath.
She was suffering from a rare and deadly build up of toxicity in her body due to being unable to process every day prescription medicine she had been taking – paracetamol and antibiotics.
It meant her body was suffering the same effect as an overdose due to Maternal Acidosis, in which her blood had become dangerously acidic.
However, an A&E doctor who saw her was dismissive of her symptoms and left her sitting on a trolley for over four hours before discharging her.
The heavily pregnant woman then collapsed on the way out of the hospital and her baby was delivered by emergency C-section, but had already suffered brain damage and multi organ failure from her mother’s toxic blood passing through the umbilical cord.
The baby girl died ten hours later, something independent medical experts, consulted as part of a legal claim against the Trust, said could have been avoided had she been delivered when the mother arrived in A&E.
Mum woke from three weeks in coma to be told her baby girl had died
The mum, now 29, spent the next three weeks in a coma fighting for her life and did not know her daughter had died.
Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has now agreed a £50,000 damages settlement to the family after they brought a claim of medical negligence through Hudgell Solicitors.
The trust admitted mistakes were made by the on-call doctor in looking after the mum, in March 2014.
It carried its own Serious Untoward Incident review following the baby’s death which identified a catalogue of errors including lack of interpretation of basic observations on the mum after she arrived by ambulance, human error on the part of the emergency doctor to recognise a sick patient, and inappropriate discharge of a sick patient.
Hudgell Solicitors consulted a specialist neonatologist for opinion as part of the case, who said that if the doctor had realised the seriousness of the mother’s illness and instigated the delivery of the baby when she had arrived in A& E, then the baby could have survived and with treatment, made a full recovery.
Mum says doctor ‘dismissed’ her and left her on trolley for hours
The mum, who already had two children and has had two further healthy children with her partner since their daughter’s death, said she is angry that her daughter died because she wasn’t listened to by a doctor who she feels dismissed her as a “drug addict.”
The mum, from Hull, who has asked not to be named, said: “When I got to the hospital I was talking rubbish and not making any sense, and I am sure the doctor just assumed I was on drugs.
“The main thing I can remember is being left on a trolley in a corridor for hours, I was coughing and could barely breathe. The doctor looked at me like I was a drug addict, and just didn’t care.”
She passed out on her way out of the A& E department at 7.45am – four and a half hours after arriving at hospital.
Hospital records show she was taken to the Resuscitation Ward at 8.19am, and at 9.33am her baby was delivered.
The mum, who was put to sleep for the delivery, never saw her baby and it was three weeks before she knew what had happened.
“I was told she took one breath, and they worked on her for several minutes, which breaks my heart as I know now from reading hospital reports that it was obvious she had multi-organ failure from the condition of her cord, and it was too late,” the mother said.
The woman’s partner, who was at home with their two other children at the time, was informed that his daughter and his partner could both die.
She spent three-and-a-half weeks in intensive care, during which time she said she came under suspicion of deliberately inflicting harm on herself and her baby by deliberately overdosing – before a senior doctor identified she was suffering from a rare condition in which her body had been suffering from a toxic build-up of medication which it could not process.
A Consultant Neonatologist who was consulted by Hudgell Solicitors found in his report that if the woman’s illness had been recognised when she arrived at the Accident and Emergency department and the obstetric team called urgently, it is likely that the baby girl would have been delivered earlier.
He added: “I believe she would be likely to have responded to resuscitation and survived.”
Settlement offer reflects medical evidence suggesting baby girl could have been saved
Solicitor Nicola Evans, a specialist in handling cases of birth negligence at Hudgell Solicitors, said: “This is a case where errors in care have resulted in the most tragic of outcomes.
“My client was dangerously ill when she was taken to Hull Royal Infirmary’s accident and emergency department and it is deeply worrying that, although a rare condition, it was not in the minds of doctors as a possibility.
“All too often we see cases where there are tragic circumstances as a result of thorough tests not being carried out on patients.
“Her treatment from walking in the door to walking out four hours later was shocking. She felt completely dismissed and was left on a trolley for hours when 33 weeks pregnant.
“It is significant that independent experts were of the opinion that, with appropriate action on her arrival at A&E, the baby could have been saved, and despite the Hospital Trust failing to admit that their actions had caused the baby’s death, the compensation settlement offered by the Trust certainly appears to reflect that opinion.”
‘It makes me feel so angry. I wasn’t listened to and I could have died too’
The woman added: “The signs had been there with my two previous pregnancies, this had been happening for years, but with my daughter it became too much. I could have died too.
“I’d been feeling unwell for weeks, which is why I had been taking the medication. I was coughing and breathless, but no-one listened to me. It makes me so angry. If any pregnant women feels something is wrong with her baby, I would now say go and get it checked out, and do not leave it until they can prove to you that there is nothing wrong. I had my instincts and I knew, but no-one took me seriously.”
Since her diagnosis, the Hull mum avoids all medications and went on to have two healthy babies, but said she will “never get over” what has happened, nor will her partner.
“It tears me apart thinking about what my partner went through,” she said.
“To me, because I was in a coma, it still seems like a story or a dream. But for him, he dealt with everything alone and he won’t talk about it, it might take him years, but when he’s ready I’ll be there.”
The couple keep their baby’s ashes in an urn at their home, and have kept a small selection of clothes that they’d bought for her, that were never worn.
“It will always be there – every time I see a newborn baby, or catch a glimpse of a new-born on TV,” she said.
“I have seen pictures of my daughter, and I have seen what she looked like, and the tubes she had attached to her, and it breaks my heart. But I think that it’s a good thing that I will never stop thinking about it, because I like thinking about her, not in a morbid way – but I know that she’s ok. I know that because of the delay in delivering her, she would have suffered if she was still alive now.”
“I just keep thinking ‘what if?’ It just makes me so angry that if people had just done their jobs, this wouldn’t have happened and she would be alive.”