Trigger warning: This article mentions infant loss.
Around ten per cent of newborns delivered in Australian hospitals will require resuscitation assistance to breathe at birth. Baby Thea was one of them. Tragically, Thea didn’t receive assistance until it was too late. Instead, staff at Redcliffe Hospital discovered that the oxygen tank Thea should have been given was empty.
The heartbroken parents of Thea have spoken out about their tragic loss, while Redcliffe Hospital is now under investigation for delaying resuscitation.
She wasn’t moving as much.
Thea’s mum Meg, 21 and dad James Flaskett, 22 were over the moon to discover they were pregnant. Recently married, the pair had just bought a house and were so excited to bring their first baby home.
Meg experienced an uncomplicated pregnancy until around the 38-week mark when she noticed Thea wasn’t moving around nearly as much as she should. Also, it was determined that baby Thea wasn’t growing as much as in previous weeks, something that caused concern.
After telling staff she “wasn’t confident” about her baby’s health, Meg requested a Cesarean-section birth, however the decision was made by Redcliffe Hospital to induce her labour for a vaginal birth at 38 weeks.
One the day of Meg’s induction, Redcliffe Hospital was really busy so her induction was pushed back from the early morning to late evening.
At that point, I hadn’t really felt Thea move for most of the day. But nobody had really checked in,” Meg told 7News.
Thea was born with the cord around her neck.
About half an hour into the birth, Meg began to endure “a lot of pain”. She was offered multiple types of anaesthetic, including via an epidural injection, which all failed to give her relief. She begged for a c-section again, but the hospital declined, and Thea was born vaginally via a vacuum extraction.
When she was born, Thea was a bluish colour. She didn’t cry, and she had the cord wrapped around her neck.
They unwrapped that … and placed her onto my chest. She was a kind of blueish colour and had puckered lips, and was groaning.”
Empty oxygen tank
Staff assured Meg and James that Thea was fine and just needed a little help to breathe. When they went to use the oxygen tank – the lifesaving device Thea needed to help her breathe, they discovered the tank was empty.
One of the midwives went to put it on and was like, ‘This one’s empty, we need to change it’.
No one really knew how to change it. It went back and forth for a while.
It seemed like no one knew how to change to that life-saving equipment that our baby quite clearly needed.”
Eventually, Thea received the oxygen she needed, but the delay may have been too much for her little body. Just hours after welcoming Thea into the world, Meg and James were told that their baby would not survive.
Thea wasn’t displaying signs of brain activity anymore, her organs were shutting down, and if we wanted to hold her, now would be the time,” Meg said.
“We decided that we would have our cuddle. At that point, she was placed into my arms and I was just admiring every part of her. It was the first time I got to take it all in and notice her red hair and how much she looked like both James and I. She was everything I dreamt she could be and more.”
Tragically, Thea passed away in her daddy’s arms.
Thea was born in September. Recently, Meg and James shared their grief with 7News and Sunrise, explaining how the death of their daughter continues to haunt them and how they just try to take it day by day and hour by hour.
I look back and wonder the pain she would have felt in those hours,” Meg said. “I believe it was a totally preventable occurrence.
“Had she have been met with the oxygen, even in those first eight minutes when they were saying she was OK, I think she would have had a much better chance.”
Redcliffe Hospital under investigation
A coronial investigation and an internal review by the hospital into Thea’s death are now underway, but Kim Hansen, the hospital’s medical director of children’s health, has declined to comment on whether or not the staff were in the wrong.
We’re waiting for the details from the internal review and the Coroner’s findings and that will give us more information about what happened,” she said at a media conference.
“I understand the oxygen tank required changing during the resuscitation of baby Thea, and that was done.
We do know that baby Thea became critically unwell very soon after the delivery and resuscitating the baby took the attention of the staff.
The staff noticed there were problems with baby Thea’s breathing very soon after birth and then the resuscitation started.”
Kim Hansen also commented that the need to change an oxygen tank in the middle of an emergency is “not uncommon” and that all staff “are trained to change oxygen tanks when they become empty.”
Our staff are compassionate and excellent clinicians. They’re devastated by what’s happened.”
Our thoughts go out to Meg and James as they come to terms with this tragic outcome and hopefully get the answers they deserve. The couple have also shared they hope to have another baby but, after what they have endured, find it “incredibly hard to trust the system”.