Mum fought for life as ‘miracle baby’ died

Allison Sweeney was devastated to lose her baby daughter. Picture: Joey Kelly
Allison Sweeney was devastated to lose her baby daughter. Picture: Joey Kelly
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A MOTHER has told how she was left fighting for her life after the delivery of her “miracle” baby who lived for just 19 minutes.

Alison Sweeney was told that she would never be able to have another child following an operation to remove the lining of the uterus last year. But just months later the mum-of-two found out that she was two months pregnant with her third child, despite previously being told that in the unlikely event she did fall pregnant, she would miscarry by eight weeks.

Weeks later, in late June, her hopes turned to fear when she was rushed to hospital with excruciating pain in her stomach and admitted to the Royal Infirmary.

But when she underwent her 20-week scan the following day, doctors gave her the news she longed to hear. She claims she was told she was having a girl and that all was well with the pregnancy.

But a week later, her baby, who she called Kasey, was being delivered in a frantic emergency operation as Alison clung on to her life by her fingertips.

The 33-year-old “died” twice on an operating table and had to be resuscitated, and was only kept alive in the following days by a life support machine in the intensive care unit at the Capital’s flagship hospital.

Tragically, she never got to meet Kasey, who was delivered premature at 21 weeks and three days, and lived for less than 20 minutes. Her partner, Ian Rae, 36, arrived at the hospital five minutes after his daughter died.

Alison today hit out at the standard of care she received from the NHS, claiming doctors repeatedly dismissed her when she complained of a burning sensation in her stomach in the days before she lost her daughter and nearly her own life.

She also told of her heartbreak at losing Kasey, after falling in love with the baby and gradually becoming more confident about the prospect of an unlikely addition to her family, despite her pregnancy being high-risk.

“As it got further on I got more and more excited,” she said. “At 20 weeks I found out I was having a girl and they said she was absolutely fine. I thought it was brilliant. I’d had tummy pains, but I’d had them for a long time which is why I had the ablation [the operation to remove the lining of the uterus] in the first place. It got to 19 weeks and we started preparing. I was feeling movement and could see when she was kicking. We’d just bought a pram and had a cot set up for Kasey. Clothes were the next step. I got my partner to take them down before I got home.

“I haven’t really coped well at all. I’m trying to get on with my day-to-day life, but her due date is coming up on November 16. It’s very tough. I’m lucky because I’ve got a 14-year-old daughter and a son who’s almost three. They keep me going.”

Alison was rushed to the Royal Infirmary by ambulance on June 30, when she was 20 weeks and one day pregnant, complaining of severe stomach pains and was admitted to the Simpson Centre’s high dependency ward. She said that while excess fluid was detected during a scan of her baby, she was told her daughter was “absolutely fine”. During her stay, she said that although she told doctors the pain in her stomach was “unbearable”, one told her it was “all in her head”. After being transferred to a general labour ward and back to high-dependency, Alison insists she repeated to doctors that something wasn’t right, but said they did not appear overly concerned or investigate further.

On July 9, she got out of bed in the early hours of the morning to go to the toilet, but says she spent the night sitting on a chair unable to get up. When she tried to get back into bed with the help of doctors in the morning, she collapsed.

“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “I just remember a nurse coming and asking if I wanted to get back into bed as the doctors did their morning rounds. I tried to stand up and just collapsed on the floor. They got me back onto the bed and did a scan, and I heard someone say ‘we’re going to lose them both’.”

Alison was rushed into theatre for surgery, where she had to be resuscitated twice, had blood transfusions and an emergency hysterectomy to save her life.

She was opened up and her daughter was delivered, who spent her short life in the arms of her grandmother, Roseanne Doherty, before she passed away. While Alison says that doctors could have done nothing to save Kasey, she believes had they listened to her concerns she may not have fallen so ill.

Alison was later told that a hole had developed in her uterus, after the placenta had moved behind Kasey, causing blood to seep out and flooding the mother’s vital organs.

She said doctors had initially told her following the 20-week scan that they believed the fluid they detected had been from a burst cyst, but could have discovered the real cause had they listened to her and properly investigated.

“I’d been telling them for a week that something was wrong, that these pains were different, but it was like I was just being ignored,” she added. “I think when you go in there and are concerned about your unborn child they need to listen. I was on a life support machine for two days and in intensive care for four days and it didn’t need to be as dramatic.

“I don’t want anyone else to go through what I did. I not only lost my chance of any more children but I also lost my baby girl.”

Kasey died as her lungs were not developed enough to function. A funeral was held for the baby and the family is still deciding on a special location to scatter her ashes. Alison now intends to put in a formal complaint to NHS Lothian about her treatment and may seek legal advice.

In all, she spent almost three weeks in hospital and was treated in a gynaecology ward in the hospital following the operation, where she said standards of care had been good.

Dr David Farquharson, NHS Lothian’s medical director, said: “We are very sorry to hear about this patient’s unhappiness regarding their care. I would urge the individual to contact us with more information, so we can fully investigate.”

Pregnancy after operation is rare but not impossible

PREGNANCIES in women who have undergone endometrial ablation operations are extremely rare.

It is believed that only three to five women out of every 1000 who have the procedure get pregnant. The odds of having a live birth are even slimmer.

The operation is a surgical treatment for women who have heavy periods. Most of the womb lining is destroyed using laser, radiofrequency waves, microwaves or heated water.

Despite the low chance of falling pregnant, women are told that they still need to use

contraception following an ablation.

In 2011, Paula Rivett, a 38-year-old mum from Kent, gave birth to a boy, Lennon, after having an ablation.

The baby reportedly attached himself to a muscle in the womb and was born six weeks premature by caesarian, but survived.

Patients are usually able to go home following the procedure, which can be preformed under local anaesthetic. It typically takes between half an hour and 45 minutes to carry out. Most people return to their day-to-day activities after a week.

Side-effects can include cramping pains, discomfort or bleeding, while complications can also arise. The bladder can become infected while in rare cases the womb, bladder or bowel can become damaged, requiring further surgery.