Irish mum's instinct saved 'dead' baby
It was a moment when shock, joy and anger all mixed into one.
Melissa and Michael Redmond, from Donabate in north Dublin, were looking at and listening to their unborn child's heartbeat.
The day before, they were told the child was dead. The day after, if Melissa had not trusted her instincts, he would have been.
On Wednesday, July 22 last year, Melissa, then eight weeks pregnant, was told by a doctor in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Co Louth, that her pregnancy had failed.
The couple already had two young children, Cian, then seven, and Tara, then two, but Melissa had miscarried four times in the past and asked for an early check-up to make sure things were okay this time around.
"I knew myself that if I had another miscarriage, I wasn't going to try for another child -- that was it," she told the Irish Independent.
An initial scan carried out at six weeks showed no heartbeat -- which is not uncommon for that stage in pregnancy.
As the weeks wore on, Melissa started to feel symptoms similar to those experienced during her two successful pregnancies.
"I was getting morning sickness. And I had other symptoms like full breasts and I was very tired."
They were due to travel to the Lourdes again for another scan when she was eight weeks pregnant.
"As we were driving there, I said to Michael: 'Don't worry about this one, this is going to be fine, there's going to be a heartbeat.'
"He dropped me off and said he would go and park the car. So I went up and knocked on the door and they called me in straight away.
"They proceeded to do an internal scan and I could see on the screen that the foetal sac had grown. So I was looking at it, thinking 'thank God'.
"It must have been only a minute or two. It was a really quick examination. The doctor turned off the monitor and she said to me: 'No, this is not going to progress'.
"I was stunned, just stunned. They started to talk to me about my options and I asked them to go and get my husband.
"As he was walking through the door, the midwife looked at him and told him it wasn't good news. He was stunned."
The couple sat down and decided to have a D&C procedure to remove the 'dead' foetus.
They were told to come back on the Friday, two days later, to have the procedure done and Melissa was given abortive medication to take on the morning of the operation.
"I believed them when they told me because they were the professionals, but in my heart I was thinking: 'How can this be?' I was showing all the symptoms.
"And they said to me: 'Those symptoms can last for seven days after you've lost your baby.' They wouldn't even do another scan in two days time or anything like that. They just completely dismissed it."
She had to relay the heartbreaking news to her family, who were celebrating another birth. Melissa's brother and his wife had had a child in the Lourdes that day.
She also had to break the news to her eldest son, Cian.
Cian had already been told to be "good for mammy" while she was pregnant. Melissa remembered his joy when she had earlier whispered "there's a baby inside my tummy" in his ear.
"When he came home I said: 'Pet, holy God is after taking the baby away.' And he was upset -- of course he was, because he knew of one previous miscarriage.
"He didn't know there were four. He knew of one previous one because I had told him, and he thought 'oh no, holy God is after taking this one on me again'. So he accepted it. He was upset for me."
The following day, Melissa went over to see her friend, who then kept asking if she was sure her baby was dead.
"She was asking questions, putting doubts in my mind. As the day went on and we were talking, I said: 'I need to find out for sure'. I would have never forgiven myself otherwise.
"The GP I knew had a scanning machine in his office. I presented myself and there was a female GP on duty."
Melissa rang her husband Michael and explained to him that she "just needed to know". He was getting off the train after work and the GP waited until he arrived before carrying out the scan.
"As soon as she put the probe on my belly I saw a heartbeat. It was very quick -- rapid. I just felt shock and relief and joy coming through me.
"I put my finger on the screen and said: 'Is that my baby's heartbeat?'
"Dr Martin, who runs the practice, came into the room and he flicked a switch and you could hear the heartbeat and I just started crying."
Michael described it as the "most incredible thing you've ever heard".
"I didn't know what was going on until he turned on the sound and once the sound came on, the whole room was filled with the baby's heartbeat," he said.
They went to the Lourdes the next day -- the day Melissa was due to have the D&C procedure which, combined with the medication she had been given, would have killed her child.
"I was still very angry," Michael said. "I didn't know how to express that anger. So many different emotions were coming at me. They brought us back up to the same room we'd been in two days previous consoling ourselves.
"At the time I was very angry with the registrar who diagnosed so quickly without taking the opportunity to get a second opinion. It was just five minutes -- wham, bam, thank you mam and out the door."
But the couple are keen to stress their anger is not aimed at the general staff of the hospital, who they thanked for subsequently helping them through the pregnancy.
It is focused on the doctor who carried out the wrong diagnosis -- and who they later saw but refused to be treated by -- and the HSE for not providing up-to-date equipment.
Their son, also called Michael, was born on March 6 and Melissa describes him as a "miracle baby".
"I couldn't believe it when I had him in my arms," she said.
"If this was my first pregnancy, I wouldn't have known any different. I would have just went with what they said. The only reason I questioned it is because it wasn't my first pregnancy and because I've had miscarriages as well that I knew the feeling. I knew to trust my own instincts and my own body.
"How many girls have gone in there and it could have been their first one and they wouldn't have been any wiser?"
Melissa hopes her experience will encourage other women in similar situations to always seek a second opinion and trust themselves.
"There are so many other mothers this could have happened to," said Michael. "Their children could have died -- viable children."
Pointing to a picture of his son on his fireplace, he added: "That was taken about an hour after he was born and I was just staring at him, saying: 'You're here, you're here, I nearly lost you.'
"I was just so elated at that moment. To think we nearly lost him. And every time I see him now, it comes back to me.
"Every morning I look over at his cot and I see him asleep as I'm getting up going to work and it just comes straight back to me, every time. And I don't know how long that's going to last."
Source Irish Independent