Warning: Distressing content.
Winter Vernon was born 10 May 2021. On 11 May 2021, she died. Her heartbroken parents, Marisa Sheard and Michael Vernon only got to spend one day with their precious little girl.
Winter died due to severe head injuries, allegedly caused by traumatic forceps delivery birth. Now Marisa and Michael are taking legal action against the hospital where Winter was born as they come to terms with this tragic loss.
What exactly happened?
Marisa, from the UK, was six days overdue when she was induced at Ormskirk Hospital near Liverpool. Two days later, she still wasn’t dilated enough to have her daughter. The 27-year-old first-time mum was told she would need an emergency C-section.
She was given two epidurals and wheeled into the operating theatre. When she got there, she was told she was fully dilated and could begin a vaginal birth instead.
Forceps delivery goes terribly wrong
Assisting with the birth was a midwife and a doctor. The midwife was next to Marisa, monitoring her contractions as Marisa wasn’t able to feel them after the epidural. The doctor was attempting to pull the baby out using forceps.
In a forceps delivery, a health care provider applies forceps — an instrument shaped like a pair of large spoons or salad tongs — to the baby’s head to help guide the baby out of the birth canal.
In Australia and New Zealand, almost one baby in ten will be born with the assistance of instruments, and this is most common in a first birth. According to the Royal Australian New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “all births carry a risk of complications, and most assisted births do not have any additional problems.”
In Marisa’s birth, this wasn’t the case.
Using the forceps with excessive force
As Marisa explains,
He was using the forceps with excessive force, pulling me down the bed. Every time he pulled the midwives had to pull me back up the bed.
I had a midwife next to me monitoring my contractions as I couldn’t feel them and she was letting the doctor know when I was and when to pull. The doctor was pulling when I wasn’t even contracting.
The midwife shouted at him ‘she is not contracting’ but he still proceeded to pull me down the bed.”
The horrific forceps delivery left Marisa scared and she admits you could “feel the tension in the room”.
Her skull was all caved in
Marisa required an episiotomy but eventually, Winter arrived. She was battered, bruised, and appeared lifeless when she was born.
The top of her skull was all caved in,” Michael said. “You could literally see the shape of the forceps indented into her skull and you could see a big cut four or five inches just above her eye.
I have that memory in my head for the rest of my life, I will never forget that, ever. It is like a horror film for me.”
Winter was immediately whisked away for emergency treatment including CPR. She was then transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital where she died on 11 May.
Doctors told the heartbroken couple that their daughter appeared to have severe fractures to her skull but the newborn’s official cause of death has not been released.
We’re not only having to deal with the devastating loss of our baby but we’re also forced to fight to get to the truth and an explanation of what happened to take her away from us.”
Marisa and Michael are trying to find out what exactly happened to their little girl. They explain that following their baby’s birth, they were contacted by someone claiming to be a staff member at Ormskirk Hospital, raising concerns about the way her birth was handled.
Medical director of Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust Dr Kate Clark told the public,
I want to send our deepest sympathies to Winter’s parents at this very difficult and distressing time. We are concluding a comprehensive investigation to understand the full circumstances around her death.
However, it would be inappropriate to comment further until this and the Coroner’s inquiry have been completed.”
Marisa and Michael are now taking legal action.
We at Mum Central hope Marisa and Michael get the answered they need. We also send our deepest sympathies to the family.
Please note: We wanted to share their story – not to scare expecting mothers – but to raise awareness for every mother’s right to speak up, especially during birth. If you are ever in a position where you feel uncomfortable, please ask to speak to a patient liaison officer or, if in Queensland, request a “Ryan’s Rule Clinical Review”.