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Baby Hannah Coyle's parents fear for others after inquest leaves 'unanswered questions' as to why she died

By Donna Deeney

The parents of a baby girl who died just hours after her birth have said a lack of answers after her death has left them fearful it could happen to others.

Melanie and Kieran Coyle walked away from an inquest at Laganside Court this week disappointed that they still don't know why their much-loved baby died.

During the inquest, the couple also told of the trauma they felt when a hospital porter with a "black body bag" walked into the room as they spent their last moments with their daughter.

Hannah was born on January 20, 2015 but died a few hours later in Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry from a lack of oxygen, due to the placenta tearing away from her mother's womb during labour.

Hannah was the second child born to Mr and Mrs Coyle and was a baby sister to their daughter Emma.

While the couple have since become parents again to Oisin, born five months ago, they want lessons to be learned from Hannah's death so that no other family has to endure their pain.

Coroner Joseph McCrisken said: "There are many questions concerning baby Hannah's death which remain unanswered, but based upon the evidence before me, applying the relevant standard of proof, I am satisfied as to the cause of her death.

"I therefore intend to enter the cause of baby Hannah's death as foetal hypoxia due to placental abruption," he told the court.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mrs Coyle said: "We thought we were going to get some kind of closure and answers about what happened to Hannah and we had hoped the coroner would have said 'this is how she died and this is why she died', but that didn't happen.

"We don't even know when Hannah died, we don't know if she was born with a heart rate and was resuscitated or what happened during the first six minutes of her life.

"I am really disappointed that the coroner didn't make a recommendation that the guidelines must be adhered to in the future and that the mother should be listened to if she says something doesn't feel right."

The couple reflected on how the few hours spent in Altnagelvin hospital turned their world upside down and how the dream of bringing home a baby sister to their other daughter Emma was shattered.

Mrs Coyle said: "I carried Hannah for 38 weeks, I kept her healthy and safe, but I left the hospital with a memory box and had to explain to her four-year-old sister why Hannah was in a white coffin, why we couldn't bring her home.

"This was stuff we couldn't understand ourselves, never mind a four-year-old.

"When we went over to the hospital I had a gut feeling that things were not right.

"I had had a text book pregnancy with Emma, but it wasn't like that with Hannah."

After complications during labour, Mrs Coyle was taken to theatre and Hannah was delivered by an emergency C-section, but their worst fears had been realised and they were taken to a room where Hannah was on life support.

Mr Coyle added: "The paediatric consultant Dr Armstrong who was there with Hannah from six minutes after her birth was fantastic, he did everything he could for Hannah.

"He showed us so much compassion. He genuinely was distraught when Hannah died and came out to see us when Hannah died.

"He tried to explain to us why Hannah died but he couldn't, which was why he referred her to the coroner for an inquest.

"It was literally one horrible thing after another and a porter coming in to the room with a body bag to take Hannah was just one more in a long list.

"They apologised for that and we have accepted that, but it was one of a number of things that left us feeling let down.

"It hasn't really sunk in how bad an experience that was because we had already had such a bad overall experience and that was just one part of it.

"We thought the coroner's court would have been the end to it and we would have found out why Hannah died, he would have made recommendations so that no other baby would die and that would have been the end to it, but we feel we have no choice but to go on.

"There are no recommendations to say that you have to follow the guideline for monitoring a baby's heart, no recommendations to say a porter can't come into the room with a body bag."

In the midst of their struggle to continue with life without Hannah, the couple have had another baby, Oisin, who was born five months ago.

Mrs Coyle added: "We were treated fantastic with Oisin, but surely that's the way everyone should be treated.

"Even now when I have him in my arms I still worry and constantly check on him.

"Going back into the foetal assessment unit and the labour ward was terrifying, because we were wondering are we going to come out with a healthy baby or another white box.

"Emma talks about Hannah all the time and I love that, she has a sister and if she is writing something she writes 'Emma, Hannah and Oisin', it's never just Emma and Oisin. Hannah is part of our family and she always will be, she just isn't here."

The Western Trust declined to comment "respecting confidentiality".

A response from the Lord Chief Justice's office stated: "A Coroner cannot make a finding which would express any opinion on civil or criminal liability.

"A coroner in Northern Ireland does not possess a power to make recommendations or to give assurances.

"At the inquest inquiring into the death of baby Hannah, the midwife indicated that she did follow the relevant NICE guidance."

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