NHS failures led to mum's heartbreak

A Wigan mum has spoken of her heartbreak after a hospital trust admitted a catalogue of medical errors when her baby was stillborn.

Friday, 13th May 2016, 10:08 am
Updated Friday, 13th May 2016, 12:11 pm
Laura Monks at home in Aspull with a teddy made out of babygrows bought for her stillborn son Rueben

Laura Monks, from Aspull, lost her second son Rueben at Wigan Infirmary soon after he was born by Caesarean section five hours after she went to hospital in November 2011.

However, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust has now admitted staff did not treat Laura urgently enough and did not respond correctly to the seriousness of the situation.

Laura and her partner Peter Winrow, were also devastated to discover that an investigation was launched into their baby’s death but they were never told about it. Following pressure from the couple, an inquest is now to be opened.

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The Trust has paid Laura and Peter £40,000, which they used on a trip to Disneyland Florida for their two children Darcy and Niamh, who are now eight and three, and to ensure they are provided for in the future.

However Laura, of Bolton Road, admits to having very mixed feelings about receiving the payout and says it in no way diminishes the pain and sorrow at Rueben’s loss or makes up for the two years she spent blaming herself for his death,

Laura, 31, said: “I hated receiving the money, it was like I was swapping Rueben for the payout, it felt like blood money.

“We thought we would give the children some memories so we took them to Disneyland, the best place for a child in the world, and told them it was from their brother. We also put a lot of it away for their future.

“It doesn’t help about what happened to Rueben, it was so bittersweet, but we had to focus on Darcy and Niamh.

“After I lost Rueben I thought I had done something wrong and it was my fault. I just became such an anxious and bitter person, I just couldn’t believe it.

“They never told me it was the hospital to blame, not me. I hated myself and thought I had failed as a woman.”

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It was the birth of her daughter Niamh which set Laura Monks on a mission to discover why her first baby Rueben had died two years earlier.

Laura went to Wigan Infirmary when she was 38 weeks pregnant with Rueben after he had required turning in the womb several times a few weeks earlier.

Suspecting something was wrong as she could no longer feel him moving, Laura waited in a triage room for around 20 minutes before a nurse gave her water to drink in the hope he would wake or change position. More than an hour later, following a shift change, another nurse came to see Laura and alerted a consultant that Rueben hadn’t moved.

Doctors eventually decided the baby would have to be born that day and an operation took place at about 4.30pm. Despite working on Rueben for around an hour, during which his heart briefly started, it was decided nothing more could be done for him and he was pronounced stillborn.

Laura said she knew when she returned home that certain things about her time in hospital were not right.

She said: “Rueben was delivered five hours after I arrived at hospital and he should have been a category one case and seen within 10 minutes.

“When he was born there was no-one to resuscitate him, they had to bleep them to come. They only got him to life support after 34 minutes. If it had been there as soon as he was born he would have had a better chance.

“There were no other emergencies or births that day, so I don’t know what the consultants were doing and why there were such delays.”

After giving birth to her daughter Niamh in 2013, despite the pregnancy being filled with alarm for Laura that it too would go wrong, she contacted the hospital to find out why Rueben had not survived.

Seeing the early milestones in Niamh’s life and realising that she would never witness Rueben growing up proved the spur to discover the truth about what happened to him.

Laura and partner Peter Winrow were stunned to discover that an investigation into his death had begun almost immediately after they left hospital, about which they were told nothing, and the Trust’s policy at the time (which has since been changed) was to only discuss issues with parents if they asked questions.

The coroner has now begun inquest proceedings and Laura hopes this will allow Rueben to be given a birth and death certificate to replace the stillborn one she currently has.

She says she has been sickened by the findings of the case against the trust and now urges other mothers who have doubts about the care they received while pregnant to speak to the authorities.

She said: “It’s disgusting. It’s just inhumane the hospital had a policy that they didn’t talk to you unless you came knocking on their door.

“How many more families are there blaming themselves, living their life under this really dark shadow thinking there’s something wrong with their pregnancy? I would urge people to get in touch with the hospital.

“I rang up in 2013 and after a long pause the nurse said they needed to speak to me. I broke down on the phone, it was such a relief to know what we had known all along.

“The coroner has decided to take it on and I’m doing this to get Rueben’s little life registered. It’s just justice.”

Stephensons Solicitors took on Laura and Peter’s case in 2013 and uncovered shortcomings including possible damage to the umbilical cord when Rueben was turned and a failure by WWL to act quickly on this development as required by local and national guidelines.

Experts suggested that had Laura immediately had a Caesarean section following the failed turning, Rueben would have been born healthy.

She says the events surrounding Rueben’s death have left a permanent mark on her family.

Laura said: “There’s always a face missing on our priceless photographs. When they are playing out in the garden there should have been three of them.

“Darcy was aware that his brother was on the way and he was very much looking forward to playing Star Wars with him.