Birth Trauma Awareness Day
A distraught mum whose baby died after medical staff failed to spot that her unborn son was in distress has today said she will continue to raise awareness of birth trauma to prevent others suffering as she did.
Johanne Rees suffered the worst possible birth trauma when her much longed for baby son died shortly after being born. Johanne (now 49) from Penarth and her partner Krishna Govekar, were left completely devastated by the death of their only son, Arun, in November 2005.
Despite being flagged by the hospital as a high risk pregnancy in need of special care, midwives at the University Hospital of Wales failed to spot that Johanne Rees’ unborn baby was in distress, whilst a doctor even claimed that she was not in labour at all, but simply needed the toilet.
In the early hours of November 19th 2005 at 32 weeks’ pregnancy, Johanne Rees was admitted to UHW’s maternity unit with severe abdominal pains. Johanne, who was then aged 44, had been under the special care of the hospital’s Foetal Medicine Unit for the duration of her pregnancy due to the fact her waters had broken early at 18 weeks.
However, for more than two hours, midwives failed to properly monitor Johanne’s labour and did not spot that CTG heart readings were clearly showing that her baby was in distress.
Johanne says: “I just couldn’t understand why they weren’t doing anything to help me and my baby. At my last antenatal visit I was told my baby was breech and I would need a caesarean section. It was a ‘no brainer’ – I knew my baby needed to be delivered urgently.
“I was screaming in agony and begging the midwives to get my baby out but they just left me. I couldn’t believe it when a doctor arrived and said I wasn’t ready to deliver but had probably eaten something that had disagreed with me and to try going to the toilet instead!”
It was only after Johanne was reviewed by a second doctor an hour and a half later that the decision was taken to perform an emergency caesarean. Baby Arun Rees Govekar was born at 03.42 on 19th November 2005 and was immediately rushed to the Special Care Baby Unit.
Krishna, who had flown back from his home in Goa to be by his partner’s side as soon as he learned that Johanne had given birth, arrived at the hospital to be told the devastating news that Arun was effectively brain dead and that only a life support machine was keeping him alive.
The couple made the heartbreaking decision to switch off ten day old baby Arun’s life support on 29th November 2005.
Cardiff & Vale NHS Trust initially denied any wrongdoing but following legal action by medical law firm Irwin Mitchell, the Trust admitted liability for the errors and made an out of court settlement to the couple.
Johanne, a property developer, had met restaurant owner, Krishna (40) after a holiday romance in Goa in 1998. She said: “Arun was a precious, much wanted baby. Krishna and I both desperately wanted to start a family together and the plan had always been for me to move out to Goa so that we could be married.
“After the upset of an earlier miscarriage, we were both so thrilled when I became pregnant again. Losing Arun has completely devastated us both and it’s difficult to come to terms with his loss even now. He was in effect our last chance of having a child.”
Guy Forster, a medical negligence expert with Irwin Mitchell Solicitors who represented the couple, explained: “Although baby Arun was premature he was well developed and experts have confirmed that in all likelihood he would have survived had the staff taken appropriate action.
“When a baby becomes distressed during labour, every minute is vital and any delay can be potentially fatal. Sadly, the obstetric staff took more than two hours to decide that a caesarean section was needed and by the time baby Arun was born he had been starved of oxygen and had suffered irreversible brain damage.”
As a result of what happened to her, Johanne is also calling for more parents to be aware of the help available from the Birth Trauma Association.
She added: “In the months after Arun’s death I felt very isolated. At the time I didn’t know about the Birth Trauma Association, but having another parent to talk to who has experienced similar emotions would have been a real life-line.”