Léana’s story: Black baby loss awareness week

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Léana found out that she was expecting her second baby in the summer of 2021.

On 3 December 2021 at 27+4 weeks gestation, Léana felt a stabbing pain in the middle of her back and had pain on one side which made it difficult to breathe and arrived at Whittington Hospital by 5pm.  She told the midwives that she felt really unwell and was in pain.  She was admitted to hospital and reassured that her baby’s heart rate could be heard.

For the next 12 hours, Léana received very little care.  From midnight onwards, Léana fell in and out of consciousness and felt delirious.  Both she and her partner tried to get help from midwives on multiple occasions through the night but felt dismissed and ignored, and as though they weren’t being taken seriously.

When Léana’s consultant came on duty that morning, she came to see her to see what had happened.  On reviewing Léana, the consultant pulled the emergency buzzer.  The consultant tried for a long time to find the baby’s heart beat but at 12:01pm on 4 December 2021, Léana was told that her baby had died.

By 2pm, Léana had become so unwell that she was taken for an emergency c-section under general anaesthetic.  Léana’s son, Izaiah, was stillborn at 3:01pm (27+5 weeks gestation), approximately 22 hours after she had arrived at hospital.

Following the c-section, the doctors decided that Léana was too unwell to wake her from the general anaesthetic and she was put into an induced coma.  They gradually started to wake her from 7 December 2021, but she has little memory of events until 12 December 2021.

Léana was discharged home on 13 December 2021 without a diagnosis. It was later found that she had been suffering from starvation ketoacidosis, that means her body was not getting enough nutrients and started burning fat for energy which made her very unwell. As this was not picked up by her midwives, she went on to suffer kidney damage and her body started to shut down.  She also had pre-eclampsia and Sepsis.  Because Leana was so sick, her body could no longer provide the support a growing baby needed. This tragically led to Izaiah’s death, even though he had previously been a healthy baby.

As Léana had been put into an induced coma, she missed the important opportunity to meet Izaiah and bond with him.

Investigation

After Izaiah’s death, Whittington Hospital carried out a Serious Incident Investigation Report.  This took over a year to provide to the family.  During the investigation process, Léana raised concerns during the investigation that:

  • Black women are 5 times more likely to die during childbirth; and
  • Black children are 6 times more likely to die before they turn 1.

Léana said that she didn’t feel heard or seen when she had concerns about her and her baby’s health, and asked if the fact that she is a black woman and was ignored for hours whilst in hospital was a coincidence.  The hospital confirmed that unconscious bias might have been present in Léana’s care.

The investigation report identified multiple failures to diagnose and treat Léana and confirmed that, if she had been treated, her pregnancy with Izaiah would have continued and Izaiah would have been born alive at a later date.

Contacting Enable Law

Léana approached Enable Law to ask for help in getting answers about what happened to Izaiah.  We sent a letter seeking early admissions to the Defendant Trust, asking them to make legal admissions that the care Léana received was substandard, and that the substandard care caused Izaiah’s stillbirth.

The Defendant Trust made full admissions and provided Léana with a letter of apology from the CEO of the Trust which was incredibly important to her and her family.

Léana’s claim was settled 4 months after the admissions for £98,000.

Whilst this money can never change what has happened, it will enable Léana to provide financial security for her children, as a legacy for Izaiah.  The family will also be able to access psychological support now or in the future, to help them grow around their grief.

Léana said:

I found Enable Law and Jenny at the worst point in my life when my world had fallen apart.  Izaiah had died and I had long term effects of the coma.  I had severe PTSD and found it so hard to re-live everything that I had gone through with Izaiah.

Jenny has changed my perspective of lawyers and humanised the journey for me.  She has acknowledged that I am a mum of 3, even though people can only see 2 of my babies.  I know how difficult it is to find the strength to fight, especially when you are black and often don’t feel heard.  However, I want other mums to feel encouraged to gather the strength to go and get some help, and seek truth and justice.  Seeing the letter of apology from the Trust meant the world to me and means that Izaiah was acknowledged and leaves a legacy of change.  Jenny helped me get that.  I want all other parents to know that their babies matter to the rest of the world and that they deserve answers too.

While I will never get over the care I received from the Trust, I want to say thank you to the bereavement midwife, Jane, the high-risk midwives, Michelle and Jill, Dr Montomgery who cared for me in ICU, and especially Dr Gibson, the obstetrician involved in the SIIR and who cared for me throughout my rainbow pregnancy in the most attentive and caring manner, showing me that he and the Trust had learned from Izaiah.”  

Léana’s case was run by Jennifer Janes, a Chartered Legal Executive specialising in baby loss claims.

Jenny said “Bringing a claim whilst navigating your trauma and grief is incredibly difficult. Léana showed immense bravery in bringing the claim, and fighting for change in the hope that no other family would have to go through the same thing.  I’m very pleased that we were able to get an admission and apology, and bring some closure for Léana regarding her concerns.”

If you have experienced a stillbirth, you can learn more on our website, or contact us to speak with one of our stillbirth specialists.

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