My name is Kirsty Bowie and in August 2001 my husband and I lost our son Jose.
The following is a shortened personal account of what happened before and after his death. I have chosen to share my story in the hope that it highlights how decisions made in this profession can have devastating consequences for a family like mine.
Jose was born on the 2nd of August 2001 nine days overdue. My labour started on the 1st of August early afternoon and continued throughout the night. Despite the pain, I refrained from the pain relief offered, as I wanted to be fully aware of what was going on.
The midwife suggested my waters should be broken as labour progressed. This was done at 7.35am. There was an abundance of meconium. I knew meconium was a sign of foetal distress. It was suggested we do a trace of Jose’s heartbeat. After struggling to locate it, the pattern was irregular, his heartbeat was dipping and wasn’t recovering, at its lowest it dipped to 54 beats per minute. The consultant was called for and it was decided that a foetal scalp ph test would be carried out, this was carried out around 7.45am. I feel it was at this point that things started going wrong.
The consultant had introduced herself, explained the procedure and explained she had a student with her who would be observing and assisting. I felt this was inappropriate given the circumstances. I wanted things to be done swiftly and I feared this may hold things up, which it did. The student dropped, then broke one of the instruments, pulled the steel trolley towards the consultant and a spotlight which was being used flew off the steel table smashing the bulb. My baby was distressed and I remember feeling very agitated at this.
The test was eventually completed and the midwife explained that the results would be with us in a short time. Sure enough only a short time lapsed before the consultant returned. However instead of reassuring me I was now being told “your baby needs to be delivered now”.
Despite this statement of urgency and knowing that Jose was distressed he was delivered by caesarean section an agonising 3 HOURS later. A second consultant had made the decision that I was not a priority.
At 10.35am Jose was delivered with an apgar score of 2. The Paediatrician was called as soon as the resus clock was started. It was claimed it took him 5 minutes to arrive. This is something which I still debate, because he came from Ward 15 which is on the 3rd floor of the infirmary and travelled by car to the old Cresswell. The journey alone takes longer than 5 minutes and this initially had me wondering whether Jose could have been saved had he got there sooner. I now know that the paediatricians presence made no difference to the outcome. It was concluded the cause of death was meconium aspiration due to a considerable delay from discovery of meconium to delivery.
Craig received the news outside the theatre. He compares that moment to being punched in the stomach, a wave of complete panic at the thought of telling me.
He didn’t have to tell me after all.…..I received the devastating news whilst being wheeled back to the labour room, not face to face, just a voice from behind saying in a very matter of fact way ‘your baby died Kirsty’ I can still recall that voice. I will never forget that voice. Craig was re-united with me in the corridor as I was wheeled back to the labour room. We will never forget that moment or that day.
The consultant and the paediatrician sat at my bedside a short time later to explain what had gone wrong, this for me was too soon however, I do distinctly remember the paediatrician saying he was sorry. He seemed genuine and I appreciated that. I also believe that he had tried his best to revive my son.
Having a baby is supposed to be one of the greatest moments of a persons life. Family, friends, colleagues were all awaiting phone calls. Craig was now dreading delivering the news he was dead. How could a perfectly healthy little boy be let down so badly and denied his life. Family still wanted to see him, he was perfectly formed all ready for life.
In the hours that followed I lay in utter shock. I can only describe the feeling as one of utter desperation and gut wrenching sadness. I had to be persuaded to see him. My biggest fear was letting him go. I still remember how much he weighed in my arms, I kissed his forehead, he was so cold, I unwrapped his blankets and looked down at his little chest, it was one of the lowest points of my life. I felt really scared. I asked Craig to take him away. If I had this time again I would spend more time with him. I regret this so much now as we have no photos of us holding him and this still distresses me.
I just wanted to go home and so made the decision to be discharged that day. Craig requested to see Jose again and dress him in what would have been his coming home clothes and then we left, leaving our beautiful wee boy behind.
The death of a child is one of the worst things that can ever happen to a person. Coming home is really just the beginning……..I lay in his nursery and literally howled. Instead of caring for him we were arranging his funeral and choosing his headstone. We registered his birth and death at the same time. Burying him in the clothes we had bought to bring him home in. It is a life sentence. Jose would have been a teenager this year.
Although we have 2 beautiful girls moving on was exceptionally tough. Grief is exhausting. In the early days we went from being a happy fun loving confident couple to virtual recluses, something I would never have believed. We avoided people, situations and just went through the motions of life, carrying heavy hearts and feeling numb. When you stand at the grave of your child you have reached rock bottom. The death of my son is something I will never get over, and there is never a day goes by that I don’t think about him.
Although I initially felt great anger and bitterness, I have had to learn to accept what happened that day and recover enough to accept that nobody is infallible.
Kirsty Bowie is an Assisstant Practioner in Radiography in DGRI.