They told me my baby was dead, but two days later a scan showed it was alive. I asked the midwife: 'Is this a miracle?'
A woman has spoken of her emotional agony after being told she had suffered a miscarriage – and then discovering her baby was still alive two days later.
Danielle McGookin (30) and her partner Ronnie Hartley were devastated when they were told that a scan had revealed their 11-week-old unborn baby had died in the womb three weeks previously.
But 48 hours after receiving the news, as Danielle was preparing to undergo a procedure to remove the foetus, the mum-to-be was stunned when medics told her the child was in fact alive and well, and a "perfect size".
The couple, from Newtownabbey, said they are delighted that the baby – their first – is still alive, but furious that the Royal Victoria Hospital made a mistake that caused them so much anguish.
Danielle said: "For two days I was just grieving. I was angry with myself, thinking the baby had been dead inside me for three weeks."
The Belfast Trust confirmed it was investigating the incident.
Danielle explained that she went to the RVH on May 11 after experiencing a sudden pain.
"I phoned the doctor on call who advised me to go straight over to get a scan done," she said.
She said she was seen by both a nurse and midwife before being given a scan and undergoing examination by a doctor.
"He did a tummy scan first of all. He said he couldn't see anything. Then he internally examined me," she said.
It was then Danielle claims she was told the baby had no heartbeat.
"He turned the screen around to show us," she recalled. "He said there was no circulation and no heartbeat and the baby had died at eight weeks."
Danielle said they asked if it was "100% correct" that the baby had no heartbeat.
"We were told the baby had definitely died," she said. "We were just totally devastated."
Staff, including the doctor and nurse, passed on their condolences to the couple.
They were then told the Early Pregnancy Clinic would arrange an appointment to have the remains of the baby removed, but Danielle would have to wait for another two days.
"Those two days were awful," said Danielle. "Just waiting to go back to hospital and also coming to terms with the fact that I had lost the baby."
When the two days passed and the couple went back to the RVH, they met a midwife and doctor and discussed a number of procedures that Danielle could have.
"I had been told by the previous doctor that they would be re-scanning me, but it was just protocol – the baby had gone," she said.
"So I knew I would be scanned again. They asked me if I would like a photo as a keepsake."
Danielle said she couldn't look at the screen that showed the scan.
"I was holding my partner's hand. Then I heard: 'Is the baby moving?'
"I couldn't believe it. My partner asked about five times to make sure it was still alive. The midwife said it was.
"It took a while to sink in that it was actually my baby that was still alive."
Danielle said both the doctor and midwife were completely shocked. "They were measuring the baby and said it was alive and the perfect size," she said.
"I said: 'Does this happen, or is this a miracle?'
"The midwife said: 'I would say this is a miracle', and hugged me."
Danielle said she went through a "rollercoaster" of emotions.
"There was just pure relief and I was just so happy. My sister was in the waiting room and I went out half-dressed to tell her that it was fine. She couldn't believe it."
Danielle is now 13 weeks pregnant, but said the experience has taken some of the joy out of her pregnancy.
The couple have since made a complaint to the trust.
"I've been told I will get a response in 21 days, but have not heard anything yet," she said. "I am angry. I have nightmares about it. I can't buy baby stuff yet because there is still a fear, and I'm angry because of that.
"To be told your baby has died, to go through that grief, only to then be told it is a mistake – I just don't want this to happen to anyone else."
In a statement a spokeswoman for the Belfast Trust said: "We are sorry that this lady feels her care has fallen short. We are currently investigating several issues and we will respond to the family using the trust complaints process in due course.
"In the early stages of pregnancy, if for any reason no foetal heartbeat is detected, the woman is referred to our Early Pregnancy Unit, where a further scan will take place, to confirm the initial diagnosis. To minimise the understandable stress, this usually takes place within two or three days."
"The screen was turned away from me, but my partner, he could see it and he said: 'Is the baby moving?' And it was just like shock, I got that wee bit of hope.
"The feeling I got was like winning the Lottery 100 times over.
"It was two days of stress on my baby, of not eating, of not sleeping. I was taking tablets for the pain, which I wouldn't have if there was even a one per cent chance it was still alive."