Friday 15 February 2019

Heartbrokem mum tells of Wexford hospital failures

Mignon and Derek Underwood at home in Carne with their children Luke and Lia.
Mignon and Derek Underwood at home in Carne with their children Luke and Lia.
A section of the letter Mignon Underwood received from the HSE.


a HEARTBROKEN woman who lost her baby son following a series of mistakes at Wexford General Hospital says that if people understand what happened to her it may prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

'If it saves one baby's life, one family from the heartache and pain we have suffered, it will be something,' she said.

Mignon Underwood and her husband Derek recently settled their case against the hospital after an apology from the HSE was read out in the High Court.

Asked whether she was satisfied at the outcome, Mignon replied that she wasn't because the private consultant should have been named.

'He should have been identified,' she told this newspaper.

Mignon said the family did attempt to sue both the HSE and the consultant, however, soon after proceedings were issued their solicitors received a letter from the HSE solicitors to say that the HSE indemnify him and that the case will only be directed against them.

Mignon had sued the HSE for alleged mismanagement of her pregnancy and the death of son Conor at Wexford General Hospital on September 25, 2012.

She had sued the HSE claiming the death of baby Conor and the injuries suffered by her was caused by the alleged negligence of the HSE and a failure to diagnose pre-eclampsia.

It was claimed she suffered from pre-eclampsia and displayed the history and or the symptoms and signs of pre eclampsia and there was an alleged failure to discern those symptoms and diagnose the life-threatening condition.

Speaking to this newspaper, she said there appeared to be a mindset at the hospital that she was not suffering from pre-eclampsia. At one stage she was told in in no uncertain terms that she did not have the condition, although she was twice referred to Wexford Hospital by her GP who believed she had the classic symptoms and even a midwife she met in the street said she suspected this was the case.

In June last year and a following a four-year legal battle, Wexford General and the HSE apologised to the couple for the 'distress and trauma caused by the failures in our care.

As part of last month's settlement, Counsel Eileen Barrington read out a letter signed by an HSE general manager on behalf of the HSE, which said Wexford General Hospital and all the staff involved in the mother and baby's care expressed 'their sincere and unreserved apologies for the shortcomings in the care provided for you and your baby in September 2012'.

It said valuable lessons have been learned by the hospital and staff arising from the events and it extended its deepest sympathies to the Underwood family and acknowledged 'the distress and trauma caused by the failures in our care'.

'We feel that people should be aware about what happened and maybe they could take a different course of action.. the details of what happened to us are quite shocking,' Derek told this newspaper.

'People shouldn't be afraid to ask for a second opinion, but I don't think our health system encourages that,' he said.

Conor, who was delivered by Caesarian section after 38 weeks, and 27 hours after Mignon was told he had died in the womb, would have been four years old in the September just past, and have celebrated his birthday with his parents and siblings Luke aged six and Lia aged two.

Mignon, who says she came close to death, believes that had her condition been properly diagnosed in time Conor may have lived. But instead of accepting she had pre-eclampsia she said she was told she had a kidney infection and some of her symptoms were imagined.

'At one stage the whole medical team, all the junior doctors were trouped into my room.. they were even testing my eyes to see why I had blurred vision and headaches.

She said it was like Fawlty Towers because it seemed that everyone but them thought she had pre-eclampsia.

Mignon, speaking from her home in Carne, said that even after Conor was stillborn - she had initially been refused a C-Section - the belief persisted within the medical team that she did not have pre-eclampsia.

'Everything was off the scale, I couldn't control my blood pressure and I thought I was going to die.. they sent me for a CT Scan and I was told "at least you don't have a brain tumour",' said Mignon.

She said that four years on, she still felt devastated at what had happened.

'Sometimes I have to detach myself from it because the story is so horrific,' she said.

'Derek and myself are still having counselling. My therapist says I still haven't come to terms with the fact that I nearly died. It was very traumatic for Derek because he was there. He had been told that I might die.

'I keep thinking somebody will come to their senses, but that didn't happen.. Derek could be sitting here without a wife and Luke without a mother.'

Derek said he wanted to make people aware that in Ireland you cannot sue for the death of a child in the womb, only for the pain and suffering caused to the mother.

'Parents need to know that,' he said.

Susie Elliott, lawyer and partner at Cork-based Cantillons Solicitors, which represented the Underwoods, said that under the Eighth Amendment, 'we say a foetus is a fully fledged life and we export thousands of women annually for abortions given the value the Constitution puts on those lives. 'Yet.. when it comes to the State (or any other defendant) inflicting a fatal injury through negligence on an unborn child, that life cannot be vindicated through the civil courts.' Derek said the couple's legal costs had been paid by the HSE but did not comment any further on the out of court settlement.

Wexford People

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