Mum weeps as inquest hears baby died half an hour after being born at Causeway Hospital
A mother wept as she told how her life was ruined when her baby girl died minutes after she was delivered.
Tracy Hook was due to give birth to her first child in the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine in June 2012. However, an inquest heard that she was not induced until after her due date, despite repeatedly raising concerns about going over term.
Belfast Coroners Court heard that baby Alexis, who was born 13 days overdue, died from a lack of oxygen and showed signs that she had been distressed during labour.
Paediatric pathologist Dr Claire Thornton told the court that Alexis was stained with meconium, which is released when the baby panics.
The waste product was also found in her airways, behind her ears, and in her eyelashes.
"When a baby is gasping, which is itself a sign of distress, the baby will breathe in amniotic fluid. That gets taken into the lungs," Dr Thornton explained.
Many of the baby's organs were also congested, while her placenta was small for her size and weight, although Dr Thornton described Alexis as "adequately grown".
"She looked like most post-mature babies – a little bit skinny," she added.
As the doctor revealed more about why Alexis, who lived for little more than 30 minutes, had died, the baby's mother began to cry in the court.
Comforted by her husband and mother, Mrs Hook was also reassured by Coroner John Leckey, but the 27-year-old temporarily left the court as Dr Thornton gave evidence. Mrs Hook remained visibly upset as her statement, recalling that she got pregnant quickly after her marriage, was read to the court.
The couple found out they were expecting a baby the day after they returned home from their honeymoon in 2011.
The Coleraine woman described her pregnancy as straightforward, and doctors treating Mrs Hook confirmed it was low risk.
That changed as she passed her due date.
Mrs Hook was eventually admitted to the Causeway Hospital on July 3, after being advised to return later.
Her husband, Allastair Hook, told the court: "We were told the unit was understaffed, but Tracy said to me she was not leaving the hospital without the baby."
The inquest was told that clinical guidelines highlight induction should take place between 41 and 42 weeks of pregnancy, with Mrs Hook taken in for treatment towards the end of that time.
Coroner Mr Leckey suggested a key factor in the baby's death was a failure to pinpoint when labour began, as he questioned: "I'm sure her parents wonder if labour had been identified, would Alexis still be alive?"
When she was given the medication to begin labour, Mrs Hook suffered vomiting and diarrhoea, and was in extreme discomfort.
She said: "I kept telling them the pain relief was not very good."
The decision to deliver Alexis via Caesarean was taken shortly before 1.30am on July 4, 2012, despite a foetal heart monitor producing concerning results almost 50 minutes beforehand.
The doctor on duty called Dr Lorraine Johnston, a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at the Causeway, who assessed the situation.
At the inquest, she said the monitor, which shows the baby's heartbeat, was "bizarre" and "very abnormal".
Mr Leckey added it would "set alarm bells ringing".
Dr Johnston decided she needed to "get (Alexis) out as quickly as possible".
Mrs Hook was then taken to the operating theatre, but said she was in too much pain to hear any cries from her newborn baby.
She said: "We did not realise she was so sick. I kept telling Allastair she would be OK."
Mr Hook told his wife Alexis was "a bit shocked" as he realised there were further complications with his daughter's birth.
"The people in the theatre shouted for the paediatrician. She attempted to resuscitate Alexis – that was unsuccessful."
Mrs Hook told the court she did not recall being told of her daughter's death until around 45 minutes later.
"We were devastated," she said. "We didn't expect this. We buried her the Saturday after.
"This has completely ruined our lives and our plans."
The inquest continues.