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Grieving parents want answers
Grieving parents Ronda Corbin and Michael Galasso have criticised the response of staff at the Mt Hope Maternity Hospital after their two-day-old baby died last week. Anthony Joseph was born around 10.06 pm on July 4 and pronounced dead around 5.26 am on July 6. Although the parents are yet to receive a copy of the autopsy results, the death certificate states the newborn Joseph suffocated and that traces of milk were found in his lungs.
Speaking with the T&T Guardian at their attorney’s office in Port-of-Spain on Wednesday, the grieving parents said they were horrified at the treatment meted out to them by hospital staff during their difficult time. Corbin, 35, the mother of two other children, aged 11 years and 18 months, said she had “a perfect pregnancy” and was admitted to the Mt Hope Maternity Hospital around 8 pm on July 4. Corbin, who is Guyanese, said her son weighed 3.3 kg when he was born.
The Internet businesswoman said she and her son were both “given clean bills of health” by the attendant gynaecologist and paediatrician around 9 am on July 5. Not suspecting that anything was wrong, even after a nurse took a blood sample from Anthony around 11 am on July 5, Corbin said she was only informed around 1 pm that her son “had to go under the light” after officials detected a trace of jaundice.
Corbin said she was not alarmed at this development, as one of her other two children had undergone similar treatment. She said she fed Anthony around 2.46 am on July 6, in the presence of a nurse, before returning him under the light and he was fine up to that point. Returning to the ward, Corbin said she was awakened around 5 am that same day, so she could have an early breakfast in order to breastfeed the baby.
Corbin said she went to the nursery shortly after 5 am on July 6. “I turned off the light and pulled out my baby from the cot...I noticed he was pale white and not breathing at all,” she said. “There were no nurses around and when I called out, they came and one of them shook his foot but he did not respond. “They rushed him to the neonatal ward, and guided me to the counselling room.”
Corbin said a nurse later came to her and told her that her baby had died. Obviously upset at the distressing news, Corbin said she was angered by the way hospital officials responded to the crisis. Her husband, Galasso, a US real estate developer, resident in Trinidad since February, expressed horror over the situation, as the couple is yet to meet with senior hospital officials.
“I held my son for five seconds and that has to last a lifetime. That was all the memories of a healthy two-day-old baby I have, and now, nobody wants to take responsibility and answer our questions,” Galasso said, as he wiped away his tears. “Doctors are trusted by parents and if we can’t trust them, who can we trust?”
Angry over what he termed the lack of professionalism, Galasso and Corbin have since sought the assistance of the US Embassy in the matter, as the couple said they are now concentrating on getting their son’s body back to the US for burial. Attorney Farai Hove-Masaisai said a pre-action protocol letter would be sent to the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA).
The parents have said they were willing to go all the way to the High Court if necessary to get acceptable answers to how their baby died. Galasso said they are not interested in getting money, as this will not bring back their son. Responding to questions from the T&T Guardian, NCRHA chairman Dr Ashvin Sharma classified the death as “a case of cot death or sudden infant death, which is consistent with the post-mortem findings.”
He said he had received a preliminary report on the matter last week and denied the couple was being given the runaround by hospital authorities. Unable to say when he would receive a formal report, Sharma said while he had yet to meet with the family, he gave the assurance that the hospital will follow the Ministry of Health’s Standard Operating Procedure on adverse events. “Investigations will follow, but the final report will take days or weeks,” he said.
Jaundice is a common condition in newborns, and refers to the yellow colour of the skin and whites of the eyes caused by excess bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is produced by the normal breakdown of red blood cells. Depending on the severity of the jaundice, it may be treated by phototherapy (light treatment) is the process of using light to eliminate bilirubin in the blood.
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