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Parents seek answers over death of daughter

Author: Stephanie Forman  Bullet  Dated: 02/12/2013

Parents seek answers over death of daughter and her baby. Clinical negligence blamed for death of 26-year old pregnant girl.

On 3 December, an inquest into the death of 26-year old Carly Rebecca Harper will begin in Birkenhead. The family is adamant that negligent obstetric treatment provided to their daughter during the premature labour of her first child is to blame for her death.

Carly Harper – Died due to Medical Negligence

Stephanie Forman from Simpson Millar LLP Solicitors is representing Carly’s father, Robert Harper during the inquest involving Wirral University Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

She said: "The family feels very strongly that it was a failure from staff at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside to recognise, manage and treat the severe sepsis which led to Carly’s death after she went into premature labour."

The Inquest which will examine in detail the cause of Carly’s death in May 2012 will take place before H M Assistant Coroner Mr Christopher Sumner who will be calling a number of clinicians that were responsible for her care to give evidence.

Stephanie added: “The Trust has produced a Serious Incident Review Report which recognises a number of failings in the care provided to Carly – including the failure of the obstetric team to respond with sufficient urgency to the seriousness of Carly’s condition. The window of time when Carly’s life might have been saved was lost and her family are now living with the consequences. The very least they deserve is absolute clarity about what happened on that fatal day in May, and to be reassured that steps are taken to prevent the senseless loss of such young lives again in the future.”

The facts

Carly was born in March 1986 and was in a steady relationship with her boyfriend Alex Dearden. The couple’s first child was due in September 2012.

In February 2012 she was referred to Arrowe Park Hospital under the care of Mr Alam, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist.

In April 2012 Carly underwent a procedure to prevent her from going into premature labour which unfortunately was unsuccessful.

On 17 May at approximately 24 weeks of pregnancy, Carly experienced a rupture of membranes and was admitted to Arrowe Park Hospital. She went into premature labour which became established on 19 May. She was seen by the Consultant that morning and a discussion took place with regards to the risks of premature delivery and the fact that the baby may not survive.

Shortly after lunch that day Carly developed tremors and became extremely ill. She was shaking, sweaty, feeling hot and cold and in pain and discomfort. She was taken to the labour ward where she arrived approximately 2½ hours after she had become ill. Along with Alex, Carly’s mother Christine Harper was present throughout and she will testify that Carly was in acute pain from contractions and clinically very ill.

At 15:15 an ultrasound scan showed that the baby was dying and this was subsequently confirmed by a repeated scan. A decision was made to proceed to induce labour.

At this point, Christine became aware of the fact that none of the clinicians or nurses appeared to know what to do. There was talk of giving Carly an epidural for pain relief but the anaesthetist advised that this was contraindicated in someone with infection and consequently she was given a patient controlled analgesia pump.

Doctors kept coming and going for the rest of the afternoon. Later that evening at 21:00 Carly’s condition further deteriorated. It was now almost 6 hours after the baby had died. At 21:28 the baby was born and Carly was taken immediately to the operating theatre and then to Critical Care.

Christine and Alex did not see Carly again until the early hours of the next morning (20 May) by which time she was on an artificial ventilator.

Later that morning at 9:10 Carly passed away.

It is Mr and Mrs Harper’s firm belief that Carly died as a consequence of negligent medical treatment: there was a failure to recognise, manage and diagnose severe sepsis. Although it was apparent that the doctors and nurses were faced with a busy maternity ward that day, they did not know how to prioritise the patients and there was little involvement from the consultant until it was too late.

Mr and Mrs Harper hope that the exact circumstances which caused Carly’s death will become apparent at the Inquest when the Coroner calls the clinicians and nursing staff, and reviews the Serious Incident Review Report. It is hoped that the Coroner will make recommendations to the Trust for immediate changes in protocols, strategies and training to avoid any future maternal deaths.

Comments from the Family

Robert Harper who lives in Heswall, Wirral with Carly’s mum said: “When Carly began feeling unwell we became extremely worried. The evening of 19 May, Christine stayed with her in hospital and I went home. She called me later on to say that it wasn’t looking good but told me to stay at home. At 1.30 that night, she called again and said ‘you better get here fast’. "

“When I saw Carly in the ICU my first words were ‘my god, what have they done to her'. I just couldn’t understand what had happened. I phoned Carly’s sister, Kimberley and she brought her brother Tommy down to the hospital straight away. Matthew was away training with the army and he didn’t make it in time.”

Carly’s sister Kimberley was 20 at the time. Her brothers Tommy and Matthew were 19 and 22.

“We were all talking to Carly; trying to encourage her to stay with us but he just wasn’t responding. Seeing your daughter like that is absolutely devastating. The look on the faces of the staff told me how grave the situation had become. All we could do was watch as she drifted away from us, and then she was gone.

“It felt like someone had pulled the rug from under us. Carly went into hospital a healthy girl and look what they did to her. I am absolutely adamant that more could have been done in the maternity unit that would have prevented things getting as bad as they did. But it was as if the junior staff were left alone to deal with it. The damage was done by inexperienced staff in the maternity unit, where we witnessed a complete lack of leadership and staff appeared unwilling to step in a take responsibility for Carly’s treatment. No one seemed to recognise the severity of the situation and by the time she was moved to the ICU, the writing was on the wall. She didn’t stand a chance despite the best efforts of the ICU staff that, contrary to those on the maternity ward, were extremely competent and dedicated."

“How can it be that a healthy, young pregnant woman can go into hospital and for neither she nor her baby to see the light of day again? The people who were on duty that day can go on living their lives but ours will never be the same again."

“When we discovered that there we no procedures in place to deal with something like this, I was absolutely shocked and knew something had to be done. Serious questions must be asked of the staff, procedures must be scrutinised and someone must be held accountable."

“Afterwards, the impression I got from the hospital was that they were trying to wash their hands and hoping it would all just go away. What they didn’t know is that I’m like a dog with a bone. Two lives were lost that day and I will never let it go until our daughter and her baby receive justice."

“My family and I are still suffering. All summer I tried to bottle it up and continue working but in July it just hit home that my daughter was gone and I lost all composure. I haven’t been in work since then and right now I can’t see the light. What we need is justice and to know that Carly didn’t die in vain; that things will change for the better. Then we will have closure.”

The inquest will begin at 10am on 3 December at the Coroner’s Court, Birkenhead Town Hall, Hamilton Square.

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