A mother has told of her heartbreak after waking up from an anaesthetic to be told her baby was stillborn when hospital staff mistook the warning alarm for an IT glitch.
Theodore Swinburne, from Lichfield, Staffordshire, was delivered 80 minutes after an alert flashed up on his heart monitor saying ‘warning pre-terminal’.
His mother, Nickie, 24, said: ‘I woke up from a general anaesthetic to four words from Andy that will haunt me for the rest of my life: “he didn’t make it”.
‘The devastation was then made worse when we would discover that Theo’s stillbirth had only occurred due to a catastrophic failure in care from our hospital.’
Nickie Swinburne, pictured with her husband Andy and their baby daughter, Pippa, has spoken of her pain after her son was born stillborn following a medical error
Monitoring of Theodore’s heart rate through a CTG machine had started by 9pm on July 25, 2016.
Mrs Swinburne was left alone for an hour instead of a midwife intermittently returning to monitor the heart rate.
At 10.10pm they saw the ‘warning-pre-terminal’ notice and a deceleration in the youngster’s heart rate, a Serious Investigation Report said.
At 10.35pm a registrar concluded that Theodore may not be getting enough oxygen.
The registrar was called once again and just before 11.25pm Theo’s heart rate – which was low – was detected – he was delivered around 10 minutes later.
Staff unsuccessfully spent around 40 minutes trying to resuscitate the new born.
The Serious Investigation Report published by the Trust concluded that the root cause of Theodore’s death was a period of terminal asphyxia.
It added, by 10.10pm urgent action was required to perform an emergency caesarean and Theodore should have been delivered by 11pm at the latest.
Mrs Swinburne is hoping to raise awareness for those who have experienced pregnancy loss or baby death in the UK.
It comes after University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust admitted liability and officially apologised for the ‘mismanaged labour’.
The Swinburne’s – pictured with baby Theodore – are hoping to raise awareness for those who have experienced pregnancy loss or baby death in the UK
The devastated mother said the pain of Theodore’s death had changed her life ‘forever’.
‘Returning home to a nursery that was ready and waiting, to clothes and toys that Theo would never wear and play with, was heart-breaking.
‘Whilst no one could have prevented what caused Theo’s distress, our son could have been delivered alive within a couple of hours of us arriving at the hospital, had the correct protocols been followed.
‘This unforgiveable event has changed our lives forever.’
The teacher thanked her close friends, family and support groups for their help.
‘Even though he’s not here, Theo is still very much a part of our family and our lives,’ she said.
‘One of our favourite things is hearing our nieces say Theo’s name and talking about him. It hurts sometimes, but it’s so lovely that they know all about their special cousin. Sadly the truth is that there is no normal anymore.
‘Assuming that all bereaved parents will go “back to how they were before” is completely unrealistic.
‘Just as new parents change as they adapt to life with a baby, bereaved parents do the same.
‘I almost always put on a brave face to the world but inside I am continuously battling anxiety which is exhausting.’
Mrs Swinburne said she became particularly anxious while pregnant with her daughter Pippa, who was born in April this year.
Mr Swinburne (pictured) said: ‘Theo is always remembered by us. ‘We take his little sister to visit him at the cemetery and his pictures are proudly displayed in our house alongside Pippa’s’
‘Pippa is in no way a replacement for our baby boy but rather the continuation of the family that we wanted,’ she said.
‘It is important that people know that no baby can ever replace the ones that have died. Nothing can ever fill that void in our hearts that now belongs to Theo.
‘Every day there is a new mental challenge knowing that Pippa is doing the things that Theo never got the opportunity to do, the things that we’d planned for him and hoped he’d aspire to.
‘But we are determined to live all of our lives as best as we can for him so that his life is lived through us.
‘It is so hard but we try to be as positive as we can and try to do positive things in his memory.’
Some sixty percent of stillbirths do not have any known cause, including in Theodore’s case.
‘The exact cause of death is unknown and we have to live with that every day, it makes it so much harder to understand grieve and try to understand why.
‘He was a perfect little boy and we still lost him. Mothers should trust their instincts. I knew something was wrong when Theo missed his “wriggle hour” so we called it in.
Some sixty percent of stillbirths do not have any known cause, including in Theodore’s case. Pictured: Mr and Mrs Swinburne with Theodore
‘It could have been so easy to wait until the next morning when we due to be induced, especially after seeing the midwife that very morning but my gut told me something wasn’t right.
‘Unfortunately as first time parents, we put out trust in the staff in the hospital and relaxed on the ward after hearing what sounded to us like a healthy heartbeat on the monitor.
‘Unbeknownst to us Theo was declining and due to massive errors from staff we had put our full trust in, he didn’t make it.’
The baby’s father, Andy, a 35-year-old website developer, said: ‘Theo is always remembered by us.
‘We take his little sister to visit him at the cemetery and his pictures are proudly displayed in our house alongside Pippa’s.
‘We have channelled our grief through fundraising for the charities that have supported us through our journey so far.’
Eleanor Giblin, specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, who are representing the family, said: ‘What should have been such a joyous occasion for Nickie and Andy ended in tragedy because staff failed to act on warning signs and missed a number of opportunities to deliver Theodore.
The management of Queen’s Hospital in Burton-upon-Trent has apologised to the couple in a letter and said it will learn from their mistakes
‘Sadly, through our work, we see the pain and suffering that families experience because stillbirths and neonatal deaths are still a significant issue in the UK.
‘The current figures from SANDS are that 15 babies a day die through stillbirth or neonatal death in the UK.
‘While nothing will make up for Theodore’s death, we join Nickie and Andy in calling on the Trust to ensure it learns lessons from this tragic case so other families don’t have to endure the heartbreak of losing a baby in such unnecessary circumstances.’
Chief executive of the Trust, Gavin Boyle, apologised to the couple in a letter and said staff will learn from their mistakes.
‘I am profoundly sorry for the mistakes made and the shortfalls in care which occurred,’ he said.
‘Very clearly, the Trust did not meet the standards of care which you were fully entitled to expect and which we aim, at all times, to deliver.
‘I hope it will be of some comfort to you to know that we are determined, as an organisation, to learn from the mistakes made in order to minimise the chance of it arising again.’