Monday, May 16, 2011

A joyous story

Mother's instinct saves her son after blundering doctors wrongly say baby has died in the womb

A woman who was told her baby had died in the womb in a devastating medical blunder has celebrated her son's first birthday. Michael was declared dead during a scan carried out when his mother Melissa Redmond was just eight weeks pregnant.
The mother from Donabate near Dublin was issued with labour-inducing medication but her mother's instinct drove her to seek a second opinion.

To her amazement it was discovered she had not miscarried at all - but was in fact carrying a strong and healthy baby.

Her case sparked a huge review of maternity services in Ireland where it was found the same thing had happened to 23 women over the last five years.

Melissa, 36, said: 'When Michael was born he was perfectly healthy and it was just a joy to hold him in my arms. 'My husband Michael and I were holding him and couldn't believe he was actually here. 'Now, every time I look at him I think to myself, my God - I nearly lost you, I almost didn't know you.'

When Melissa fell pregnant in the summer of 2009, she had already had two healthy children, Cian, now nine, and Tara, four, but had suffered four miscarriages.
So when she was going through her seventh pregnancy, it was recommended she have early scans at six and eight weeks to check on the progress of her unborn baby.
However, when she went for the eight-week scan at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda she was distraught to be told she had miscarried again.

She and her IT specialist husband Michael, 44, took the painful decision to have a D&C procedure - also known as a dilation and curettage - to have their 'dead' child removed. The operation was scheduled for two days later on July 24 and Melissa was also given the abortive drug, Cytotec, to take on the morning of the operation.

However, Melissa's mothering instinct kicked in and she decided to visit her local GP to seek a second opinion. She said: 'I still felt pregnant, even though they had told me at the hospital that I could be feeling the effects of the pregnancy up to a week after losing the baby. 'But I also remembered how I felt during the previous miscarriages and during my previous healthy pregnancies. Call it mother's instinct, but I just felt something wasn't right.'

To both Melissa and Michael's disbelief, the GP's surgery filled instantly with the sound of their unborn son's heart, beating strongly.

Relief soon turned to anger as Melissa realised that had she taken the Cytotec - a powerful abortive drug - that she would have killed her own baby without even knowing. Both she and her husband now want to highlight the shocking hospital blunders and faulty equipment that led to the misdiagnosis.

Michael said: 'There are so many other mothers this could have happened to.
'Their children could have died - viable children.'

Melissa said: 'If this was my first pregnancy, I wouldn't have known any different. I would have just gone with what they said. The only reason I questioned it is because it wasn't my first pregnancy and because I've had miscarriages as well that I knew the feeling. 'I knew to trust my own instincts and my own body, but how many girls have gone in there and it could have been their first one and they wouldn't have been any wiser?'

An internal hospital report uncovered a litany of technical faults and staff failures which almost ended in tragedy. A review by the Health Service Executive (HSE) found inadequate staff training and over-reliance on ultrasound led to 24 women being wrongly told they had suffered a miscarriage.

Recommendations being implemented include developing national guidelines for the management of early pregnancy complications and ensuring emergency gynaecological care has a dedicated early pregnancy assessment unit.

Melissa hopes her experience will encourage other women in similar situations to always seek a second opinion and trust their own instincts.

In the meantime, she is concentrating on enjoying her son's important milestones, from his first Christmas to his first birthday a few weeks ago. Melissa said: 'He is a lovely happy little boy. He is just a joy to have around. He feeds well, sleeps well, everything you could wish for. He is a dream.

'But it's not just the big milestones that make me think of what happened, it's the little ones as well. Every time I look at him and he makes me laugh or I see him smile, what happened never leaves me.

'Maybe it will as time goes on but there are so many milestones at the moment: his first words, his first steps. We could have missed them all.
'I probably will feel differently over time but at the moment I feel it every day.'

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