Mum had stillborn baby after being sent home11 Oct 2019 | Stephanie Prior
A young mum has spoken of the horror of having her child stillborn after she was sent home twice by medical staff – despite being almost two weeks overdue.
Mum-of-one Stela Ernu, 31, was in labour for more than 54 hours before she gave birth to her baby boy Lucas who had already passed away.
Bosses at Basildon University Hospital have launched a patient safety investigation into Lucas’ death and the death of another mother on the same day.
Six months on and the family are still waiting for answers and lawyers from Osbornes Law are demanding the investigation’s findings are published as quickly as possible.
Stela, who also has a 12-year-old daughter, described the trauma of having to give birth to a stillborn baby.
She said: “As a woman giving birth you cannot wait to get that baby in your arms. Having to go through labour knowing that your baby is dead was the worst thing that you can possibly imagine and the most horrific thing that has ever happened to me. I was pushing, still hopeful that somehow my baby was alive. I had my baby inside me and before then I was so excited to hold him. We were to be blessed with a little boy. Then to have to deliver his still body was hell.”
The maternity unit at Basildon University Hospital has been beset with problems in recent months. An inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in July criticised the unit, saying some of its practises were not always safe and that it requires improvement.
In January this year a midwife was struck off after she told parents of a premature baby that they needed to “mourn the baby’s death” while it was still fighting for its life.
Stela, who is from Aveley in Essex, was told that she was going to be induced on March 12 this year when she was 12 days overdue. She started to feel contractions the previous evening and went into Basildon Hospital on the morning of the 12th. But because one scan suggested that her due date was slightly later, she was told to go home and come back in three days.
Stela said: “I was in pain from contractions on the day of my induction so went into hospital early. The midwife told me that they had other priorities with some labours that were more urgent than mine as I hadn’t had any complications during my pregnancy. I asked her if I could at least speak to the doctor. She came back 20 minutes later and said she was sorry, but I had to go home.
“I was having contractions and had had a baby before so I knew that they were the real thing. I tried telling the midwife that there was no way that I was not having this baby before the 15th as that would have meant I was in labour for three days. I was 12 days overdue and thought they would help me have my baby.
“I trusted the doctors 100 per cent so I accepted what they said. Even so, I felt something wasn’t right.”
The following day the contractions had got worse so Stela and her husband, George, again went back into the hospital.
She said: “I got checked over by a young midwife and at this stage I felt like was ready to give birth and didn’t want to go home. My contractions were really strong but she said they weren’t frequent enough. If I had told them that I was having them more evenly spaced than maybe they would have let me stay. I pointed out that I was supposed to be induced the day before, but she was only concerned about how spaced out my contractions were. I asked if there was any risk to the baby as he was overdue and she said ‘it’s 100 per cent fine, nothing is going to happen and everything is going to be okay’ and sent me home with some co-codamol.”
Later that evening Stela went in for the third time to be told that her baby’s heart was no longer beating.
“When the doctor came she asked when my waters broke and I said I didn’t notice that they had.” Stela said. “I said I had been in twice and it hadn’t been mentioned to me. She said that she was really sorry, but there wasn’t enough water and that my baby was not there any more. I started screaming and crying, saying that that wasn’t possible. I was asking if there was any way that they could perform a C-section on me to see if he was still alive as maybe his heart had just stopped. The doctor said she was sorry but the baby was no longer there and immediately left the room.”
Stela, who is originally from Cahul in Moldova but has lived in the UK for 10 years, then had to give birth to her lifeless son.
She said: “They handed his little body to me and I was glad to be able to hold my little Lucas. I kept him in a cot next to me until the morning. Despite everything they didn’t even offer to give him a bath. A woman came in with some stuff to make memories and kept on saying what a beautiful baby he was and how cute he was. I just thought ‘how can you say that when he is not here, he is dead?’ It felt like a dagger through my heart.
“There were people everywhere trying to help once I lost my baby, but it made me really angry as where were they when he was still alive? I would urge medical staff to treat all pregnancies with the same level of urgency and not to just assume everything will be okay, just because somebody is seen to be low risk.”
Stephanie Prior, Head of Clinical Negligence at London law firm Osbornes Law, is representing Stela. She is also representing a man who was widowed when his wife died at the same hospital during childbirth. Stephanie said: “This is a tragic case of a young mum who had no complications throughout her pregnancy, but then suffered the devastation of having her son stillborn. This is not the first case we have seen at the unit and we are concerned that there may be a pattern developing of patients whose first language is not English who have not received the best possible care. Ms Ernu is desperate for answers about why she lost her son and we would urge those conducting the investigation to publish their findings as soon as possible.”