Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland family devastated by blood clot tragedy that claimed life of mum Jolene and unborn baby

By Cate McCurry

A grieving widower has revealed the heartbreaking moment his pregnant wife collapsed and died outside their family home.

Jolene O'Hagan, a mother-of-two, died along with her unborn baby, from a blood clot.

The 23-year-old discovered only days before that she and her partner Johnathan Smyth were expecting their third child.

The devoted mum to three-year-old Alfie and two-year-old Theo had said she was "over the moon" to become a mother again. An excited Jolene shared their good news with family and friends but, last weekend, she woke up in the middle of the night struggling for breath.

Johnathan called for an ambulance and she was rushed to Craigavon hospital but tragically died a short time later. Medics discovered that the Cookstown woman had thrombosis - a blood clot. Her heartbroken family now want to raise awareness and funding for the Thrombosis UK charity to help prevent other families from suffering the same tragedy.

Johnathan, who met Jolene while studying at South West College in Dungannon, said she lived for her two sons.

"After we found out she was pregnant she couldn't wait and we told the rest of the family as we thought if it's meant to be all will be OK," he said.

Surrounded by photos of family trips and children's birthdays, he added: "Before she found out she was expecting, Jolene was complaining of shortness of breath, and even small things like walking up the stairs was a struggle, but the doctor put it down to her weight.

"She was constantly throwing up and even the smell of food would make her violently ill.

"Jolene would have panicked a lot with being sick, she had a phobia of it.

"Last Saturday night she woke me with the shortness of breath and I told her to relax and calm down and I rubbed her shoulders, then she went back to sleep.

"But she was up and down all night and woke me again at 7am saying something wasn't really right."

Johnathan dropped their sons at Jolene's sister's house and rushed back to her side. "I said I would take her to the doctors but she couldn't move so I rang for an ambulance.

"It was here in no time and they carried out tests but her heart rate was increasing."

The heartbroken dad recalled the last words Jolene said to him: "She was walking out to the ambulance and turned to me and said, 'Tell the boys that I love them'.

"I saw something in her face when she said that, whether it was the fear or that she knew it wasn't right."

Seconds later Jolene collapsed and paramedics worked on her for 45 minutes before rushing her to Craigavon. Doctors worked on her for two hours until they told the family to come in to say their goodbyes.

"But she was long gone by then," said Johnathan. "The paramedics and hospital tried so hard to save her."

He added that the memory of what happened is something he will have to live with for the rest of his life.

Jolene, who was a football fanatic, was buried in her beloved Manchester United top and surrounded by pictures of her children and partner. Johnathan also penned a heart-felt poem that was included in the funeral service booklet. "I just wrote down my feelings I had for her," he explained.

He added: "Alfie keeps asking for his mummy so we told him she's a star in the sky. At bedtime he used to say to her 'love you to the moon and the stars' so now he says to me 'love you to the moon and stars and mummy'. Theo is too young to understand but he keeps asking for her.

"She lived for her boys, she was devoted to them. She never left their side and it was the closest relationship I've ever seen.

"Things are okay until I am left alone, with the boys in bed. My neighbour rang me last night as she could hear me crying, I was in hysterics."

The family are now hoping an inquest will reveal further details behind the tragedy. "The only thing we want clarified is when she was complaining of shortness of breath what could have been done at that stage," he said.

"We just don't know if there were any signs (of thrombosis).

"She was on seven tablets a day for trouble with her thyroid.

"We don't know if there will be an inquest but we would like one as we feel it would answer questions."

The couple, who had been together for seven years, had planned to get married and, while they had not set a date, they wanted something small with family and friends.

Jolene's sister, Sarah-Louise, has started a fundraiser for Thrombosis UK which raised more than £400 in two days.

He added: "The support has been brilliant and we would like to thank everyone who donated.

"It gives me a bit of comfort to know that people are relating to something that has had such a big effect on us."

Jolene's devastated mother, Laverne, said she will treasure their last memories together.

"I have one of the last photographs of her enjoying a spa day with her sister," she said. "We are taking things day by day."

To donate to the fundraiser, visit SarahLouise-O'Hagan's JustGiving page.

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