Jennifer Kennedy and newborn son Elijah were left fighting for their lives after his birth at Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock last December.
Elijah suffered brain damage after being starved of oxygen for 30 minutes during an emergency caesarean which was delayed for 10 hours due to confusion among the ward’s medical and nursing staff, according to an NHS report in August.
As a result, Elijah, who died at home on May 20 this year, suffered bronchial pneumonia and oxygen intolerance. He was also diagnosed with cerebal palsy. All three conditions were cited as the cause of death in his post-mortem.
Ms Kennedy, 43, who lives in Kilmarnock with her partner Allan Stirling and their son Ethan, three, and two-year-old daughter, Eve, said she is hopeful a fatal accident inquiry or prosecution will be launched into Elijah’s death after a report on the case was submitted to the procurator fiscal in Ayr.
“Elijah’s birth was his death,” said Ms Kennedy. “If Elijah had been born at 12 midday as he was supposed to have been, he would have been fine. But it was 10.15pm before he was actually born. We’re hopeful there will at least be a fatal accident inquiry, and I spoke with the procurator fiscal on Tuesday. He had told us before we would find it very difficult to find an individual to blame; it would be a department to blame.”
Ms Kennedy’s ordeal began on the morning of December 14, when she had been booked in for a caesarean at Crosshouse. Her consultant told her at 9am the procedure would be performed at 12 noon, but he finished his shift before midday and his instructions were not followed through by the midwives and doctors on-duty.
Instead it was more than 10 hours past the original deadline -- after her uterus had ruptured and she was in agony -- before Ms Kennedy was admitted into surgery. Doctors spent 15 minutes resuscitating Elijah after his birth, and both mother and son ended up in intensive care.
Problems surfaced again in March when Crosshouse Hospital transferred seriously ill Elijah to Yorkill Sick Kids’ unit in the back of a volunteer’s car along with his father, a Parkinson’s patient and two other men. On arrival, medics at Yorkhill were so concerned about Elijah’s condition they immediately sent him for chest X-rays.
Five-month-old Elijah finally returned home in April but required round-the-clock care. His parents had to feed him through a hole in his stomach and use tubes inserted in his nose and throat to clear his airways up to 40 times an hour to prevent him choking. He died six weeks later.
An investigation by NHS Ayrshire and Arran found better management of Ms Kennedy’s labour “may have resulted in a different outcome”. The draft report cited system breakdowns and poor communication among staff on the maternity unit as contributory factors, and also called for an urgent review into “continuity of care” in the hospital’s labour suite during shift changes.
Ms Kennedy said: “I promised my son I would find out who did this to him and I would make sure I got justice for him. People say ‘you’ll get a payout’, but we’re not interested in money. I just want is to see someone held accountable.”
The procurator fiscal service in Ayr is awaiting the final results of the NHS Serious Adverse Event Review, expected in the next week, and will consider whether there are grounds to mount a case against the health board or hold an FAI.
A spokeswoman for the Crown Office said: “We can confirm the procurator fiscal at Kilmarnock has received a report in connection with the death of a 24-week-old baby at Kilmarnock on May 20, 2011. This matter remains under the consideration of the procurator fiscal.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Ayrshire and Arran said they were still awaiting feedback from the family to their draft report. They had no further comment.