Belfast Telegraph

Widower's anguish over death of his wife following childbirth

RVH medics couldn't save woman airlifted north, inquest hears

By Ed Carty

A widower whose wife died days after giving birth has told an inquest that he lost the light of his life.

Dhara Kivlehan (28), originally from India, passed away after suffering multi-organ failure at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital in September 2010 following a severe case of pre-eclampsia. She had been airlifted from Sligo General Hospital four days earlier.

As the inquest into her death opened in Carrick-on-Shannon Courthouse in Co Leitrim yesterday, her widower Michael Kivlehan (34) told how the tragedy left him to raise their son Dior alone.

In a statement read to the hearing, he said: "I lost the light of my life the day Dhara died. I do my best to raise Dior as a single dad, but it's difficult."

A jury of five men and two women have been sworn in to hear several days of evidence on how Mrs Kivlehan died.

They were told the couple met when Mr Kivlehan was working in real estate in London and Dhara was studying fashion. They then moved to Co Leitrim, married in 2005 and planned to raise their family near where Mr Kivlehan was brought up in Dromahair.

The couple ate only organic food, exercised regularly and avoided alcohol and cigarettes.

The jury heard that after Mrs Kivlehan was admitted to hospital, blood tests showing "grossly abnormal kidney function" were not followed up by her doctors or reported back by the laboratory for another 12 hours.

"It's very important to me personally and for Dior to know what happened to his mother," Mr Kivlehan told the inquest.

"I have had no answers of how our care was. The ordeal I went through as a first-time dad... I, hand on heart, would not like any man or child to be put in the same position and left to deal with it."

Mr Kivlehan and Dior were awarded almost €1 million last year after the Health Service Executive (HSE) apologised for shortcomings Dhara's care.

But Mr Kivlehan criticised a four-year delay in the inquest taking place. He said: "It's left a very bitter taste in my mouth, the struggle we have had to get any bits of information of our care."

He also told the jury his wife was unrecognisable in the days before she was airlifted from Sligo, adding that after a Caesarean, her body became swollen, her skin turned yellow and her eyes were "the colour of a budgie".

Mr Kivlehan further claimed he was told she would be moved to intensive care after the birth, but was put in a maternity ward.

Adrienne Egan, senior counsel for the HSE, told the inquest Mrs Kivlehan was receiving "higher care" in the days after the birth.

She said this involved being looked after in a room beside the nurses' station, a dedicated nurse, blood tests every three hours and observations every hour.

Although Mrs Kivlehan died in Belfast, the inquest was moved to the Republic amid concerns that doctors from Sligo could not be compelled north of the border. The hearing continues.

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