'We didn’t have the chance to hold him alive': Heartbroken parents speak out after death of baby at Dudley's Russells Hall Hospital
“We have been treated badly. You don’t go into hospital to have a healthy baby and come out with an empty car seat.”
They are the words of Louise Oakley, who today spoke of serious errors at Dudley’s Russells Hall Hospital which resulted in the death of her son Myles and prompted a major investigation into its maternity unit.
It was supposed to be one of the happiest days of their lives but 24 hours after going into hospital to welcome the arrival of their second child, the lives of Louise and husband Craig were left shattered.
Myles was left fighting for his life because of mistakes before birth and died at only one day old.
But as well as errors in the lead up to the birth, the parents claimed they were rushed into saying goodbye to their son, never got to hold him while he was alive and had to make snap decisions in whether they wanted to wash him while overwhelmed with grief.
The only pictures they have of their son were hurriedly taken on their mobile phones as a camera at the hospital wasn’t working and the couple said they didn’t have time to get their own.
On top of that, they said they were initially told there were no issues with the care they received due to failings with the hospital’s investigation into what happened.
But the couple, who are both police officers, were not satisfied with that response and carried out their own research through examining medical records.
Myles’ death was one of 43 serious incidents reported at Russells Hall’s maternity department between April 2014 and December 2015 – 25 of which were re-examined amid concerns over how they were originally investigated.
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Chief executive of the trust which runs the hospital, Diane Wake, this week apologised to Louise and Craig and other families affected following a damning report into maternity services as she insisted improvements had since been made. A number of serious concerns were raised by the Maternity Quality Improvement Board, including babies’ heart rates being wrongly monitored, staff being slow to react to urgent situations and the types of drugs given to induce labour. Initial investigations into incidents to find out what went wrong, including in the case of Myles, were ‘inadequate’, the report said.
All of these sounded familiar to Louise, 40, and Craig, 44, of Dudley. Many of the recommendations in the report came after errors during Myles’ birth. They arrived at Russells Hall in May 2015 expecting to give birth to a healthy baby boy. The first signs Myles was in trouble came at around 6.30pm when the ECG heart monitor started behaving erratically.
Craig said: “At 8pm he was pathological, so he was dying. He should have been delivered.”
The parents say Louise was then given syntocinon, a drug used to speed up labour but one that should not be used when babies are in distress. Myles was not delivered until after 10pm, by which time it was too late.
Louise said: “Pandemonium broke out. They were shouting ‘get the crash team’. It carried on for 45 minutes. I was screaming and shouting ‘what’s going on?’.”
The battle to save Myles continued into the night but it soon became clear nothing could be done for him. His parents were taken to see him at 8am the next morning before his life support machine was switched off. They were told they could leave around 10am.
Louise insisted they were not given enough time with their son.
She said: “We didn’t have the chance to hold him alive. We had no advice on taking pictures or anything.”
Craig added: “We were bad for business. They wanted us out of there. It is only when you re-evaluate what you would have done – we would have got some pictures, got a camcorder but we were overwhelmed by everything.”
When the parents asked how doctors had not spotted Myles was in danger, they say they were told it was believed Louise would be able to give birth naturally. They were not given an explanation as to why syntocinon was used when it should not have been.
Louise said: “The answer was they didn’t know. What sort of answer is that? How is that being held accountable? No-one sat down with us and said this is what has gone wrong. We have done this ourselves, looked through the medical notes. Some people might have gone in there and accepted their baby dying was one of those things.”
The couple have since gone on to have another baby son, Crixus, brother to four-year-old Savana, but Louise admitted she remains scarred by the events that led to losing Myles.
“The day Myles died a part of me died and a part of Craig died. There is no way anyone will ever be able to restore that,” she said.
“My kids have to suffer. Crixus has been taken to every hospital in the West Midlands because I think he’s going to die. It has made us angry, sad.
“It was a total waste of a life - a healthy baby.”