Mum’s grief: Medics left 22 week pre-term baby to die

Fri, 18 Mar 2011

A 22-week-old pre-term baby fought for life for 46 minutes but died in his mother’s arms after hospital staff refused to treat him.

Tracy Godwin gave birth to her son Tom on 6 March last year when she was in the 22nd week of her pregnancy.

But the 31-year-old was left aghast when medics at Southend University NHS Hospital refused to help her son. She had not been told that the hospital does not intervene with babies born under 23 weeks.

Begging

Describing the experience she said: “They put him in my arms and he cried and was wriggling around. I could feel him breathing and see his eyelashes and fingers and toes.

“But I kept thinking, ‘Where’s the incubator?’ We were begging the midwives to do something to help him but no one was saying anything. He was not stillborn, he was trying to live.

“If they had tried for an hour and said they couldn’t do anything more for him or he was severely brain damaged, that would have been different, but he wasn’t given a chance.”

Tom

Miss Godwin, who was administered the painkiller pethedine, added: “Because of the drug I wasn’t myself and I keep thinking if I hadn’t taken it and withstood the pain, maybe I would have had more fight in me to demand a doctor”.

“We never saw one. It was a disgrace. I just kept crying and crying.

“My partner was shouting at the midwives to help us but they just left us with Tom. We felt so alone, no one was helping us.

Gone

“I don’t know when, but I was suddenly aware Tom had gone.”

During a meeting with the hospital after Tom’s death, the grieving parents were told that resuscitating their baby was against hospital policy.

Jacqueline Trotterdale, the hospital’s chief executive, said that an investigation was underway and an apology would be made.

Apologise

She said: “We follow national guidance not to resuscitate babies born at under 23 weeks and most trusts follow this.

“We need to talk to the mothers and families of these babies to tell them what will happen. This has not happened in a systematic way and this is a big gap we are reviewing.”

Although the NHS offers guidance on when to resuscitate premature babies, individual health trusts can decide whether they wish to follow it.

Overcome

In January, a baby born at 23 weeks and believed to have been the smallest baby born in Britain last year, celebrated her first birthday.

Weighing just 13 ounces and smaller than a child’s doll, baby Willow Ludden-Brooks fought to overcome her slim chance of survival.

But at a happy 10lb 8oz she celebrated her first birthday with her overjoyed family.

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