Belfast Telegraph

Heartbroken mum Tracey Hook slams Causeway Hospital blunders that killed her newborn baby

Exclusive by Paul Higgins

Tracey Hook wept last week as a coroner ruled that infant Alexis died because of “substandard, completely unacceptable care” given by medical staff at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine.

Speaking after the hearing, she said: “If the nurses at the Causeway had spent just 15 minutes doing observations with me, that could have been my daughter's life.

“Knowing your baby died needlessly is something that you just cannot explain, but we are not vengeful.”

Alexis was born in the early hours of July 4 2012, 13 days after her due date, when Tracey's labour was induced.

But despite having a normal pregnancy, the baby girl was pronounced dead 36 minutes after she was born.

A leading paediatric pathologist told Belfast Coroner's Court that Alexis died from asphyxia brought about when she inhaled meconium — a newborn’s faeces.

He described how babies sometimes open their bowels while still in the womb if they become distressed.

Despite telling medics that many of her relatives had to have C-sections to have their babies, doctors and midwives allowed slightly built Tracey, from Coleraine, to go almost two weeks overdue.

When they finally did induce her after she refused to go home, Tracey said midwives at the Coleraine hospital provided some pain relief “only when they were asked to” and came nowhere near her for more than three hours.

Coroner John Leckey stated there was no need for little Alexis to have died if the onset of labour and warning signs about the baby had been identified sooner.

What the inquest didn't hear however was that while 30-year-old full time chef Allistair lost his daughter that tragic night, he feared he was going to lose his wife as well.

He said: “People think we are making it up about how Tracey was treated, they think that we are exaggerating about how midwives came into the room and saw Tracey literally writhing in pain, yet did nothing at all, but it was all said in court.”

In a harrowing account, Allistair recalled: “I remember it went from everyone being very calm to everyone being very anxious very quickly when they took Tracey down to the theatre.

“While they were sorting Tracey in there, I was wandering around the room I was in and noticed on the side of the resuscitaire there was a notice about stopping treatment after 20 minutes.

“When Alexis was born, there was no sound and I saw that the digital clock had started.

“They were rubbing her and working on her and all I could hear was ‘adrenaline, adrenaline' and Tracey kept saying: ‘Tell me it's alright, tell me it's alright'.

“All I could see

was the clock ticking, five, 10, 15, 20 minutes, that's it.

“At this stage Tracey started convulsing on the operating table.

“Her blood pressure and heart rate were through the roof. She literally had no reserves left from what had happened over that day so at the time, my wife was seriously ill at one side and my baby was at the other side.

“The doctors were still working with Alexis when Tracey was taken to the recovery room and stabilised.

“They came around the corner and we knew, when they came without a baby and their heads down, we knew that was it.

“When we found out, I remember looking at the midwife and saying: ‘You left us in that room, that's why this has happened'.”

Tracey and Allistair, who had only been married for nine months at the time, got to spend some time with their little daughter.

They cuddled her, took photographs and discussed who she looked like and wondered what might have been in what Allistair describes as a “surreal” scenario.

Allistair said: “You think that your are going to go into hysterics but really, you just sit there.

“We did cry but really, you are just numb, just completely numb but at the same time, we were having time with Alexis, taking photographs, talking about her and all the things you do with a new baby.

“That is your moment with your child because you are never going to get that moment with them back again.”

After three days of evidence last week, Coroner Leckey listed the hospital’s failings:

Midwives failed to identify the onset of labour, to give appropriate care and to escalate concerns to a consultant obstetrician.

They failed to carry out regular examinations and observations.

Not enough midwives were on duty to cope with the high work load, and

Foetal heartbeat traces which showed the baby needed urgent treatment were misinterpreted.

With the hearing now over, Tracey and Allistair hope to rebuild their lives.

In a poignant twist, Tracey gave birth to a boy, Freddie, on the first anniversary of Alexis’s death.

The devoted couple say that their love for their little son gives them strength.

“Freddie is a blessing to have been born on the same day as Alexis died and he is the one who has got us through everything but now that it is all over, we can actually grieve properly now,” said Allistair.

“There won't be any more solicitors’ letters or statements in the post, now we can just try to get on with our lives.

“We think about Alexis all the time — never a day goes by that I don't think about her, thinking about what happened, turning it over in your head and wondering what might have been.

“But now it's passed and justice has been done.”

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