A MOTHER spoke of the horror of her baby’s death and the ‘unacceptable’ treatment by staff at St Mary’s Hospital during an inquest at Winchester Coroner’s Court.
This is the second inquest in three weeks scrutinising the care given to babies at St Mary’s Hospital.
Owen Widlake was one day old when he died after struggling to breathe. The child was taken off the Island in the middle of the night after suffering respiratory distress, but it was too late and he died shortly after arriving at Southampton General Hospital.
Owen’s mother, Michelle, 37, of Grange Road, East Cowes, said: “Owen’s death will always be the most profound, raw, life-destroying, never-to-come-back-from thing that will ever happen to me.
“After Owen’s death I used to ring the funeral director for the silliest reasons, just so I could say ‘hello, it’s Owen’s mum.’ Soon I knew I wouldn’t be able to say that.”
Ms Widlake gave birth to Owen during an uneventful labour on May 30, 2016. It was only after the child was born signs of respiratory distress were detected and he was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit.
She and Owen’s father, Richard, were told everything would be fine and, because of the staff’s lack of concern, they were reassured.
“I wish I could go back and change things, question the staff and be more assertive,” Ms Widlake said.
The parents were told to wait in their room for an update and were left for five hours with no news, Ms Widlake said.
“It was an agonising wait and completely unacceptable. If they had said to me Owen was really poorly, I would have spent more time with him.”
When an update finally came, they were told by Dr Bettina Harms, a consultant paediatrician, Owen was sick and would need to be transferred to Southampton.
At 1am, the Southampton team arrived and when the parents went back to see their son, they found him being resuscitated.
“We clung to each other as every parent’s worst nightmare was played out before us,” Ms Widlake said.
Owen died at 5.50am at Southampton General Hospital.
Independent expert witness Dr Charlotte Groves, a consultant neonatologist at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, told the inquest staff at St Mary’s should have called for help from a larger hospital hours earlier than they did.
She said at 2.30pm observations were showing respiratory distress and a retrieval team from another hospital should have been called.
Dr Peter Wilson, a paediatric intensive care consultant in Southampton, said his team did not receive the call to retrieve the baby until 9.54pm. At that time, there was no helicopter available to make the retrieval, so it had to be made by land ambulance on the ferry.
The team did not make the 10.30pm Red Funnel crossing, so had to wait for the 11.55pm ferry.
The child died from an acute intraventricular haemorrhage, bleeding into the sacks of fluid in the brain, most likely caused by persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) and meconium aspiration.
Assistant Coroner Sarah Laurie Whitby said in her record of inquest: "The failure of Owen's respiratory function was recognised in part, though the severity was not.
"Transfer to a tertiary specialist neonatal unit was not sought early enough, particularly considering the geographical location at St Mary's.
"He was diagnosed at a late stage with PPHN and as this was untreated, it could not be resolved."
In her conclusion, she said: "Owen Widlake died of natural causes as a result of undiagnosed PPHN. It is not possible to say on the balance of probabilities whether Owen would have survived if his significant respiratory distress had been recognised, investigated and treated at the time."