A heartbroken father from West Belfast has urged parents to get a private medical test for a common – but little known – bacterial infection, after losing their first child.
Brendan Maguire, 31, and wife Susan, 36, were overjoyed about the impending birth of their little bundle of joy, following what they described as a ‘textbook’ pregnancy.
But just moments after baby Hollie took her first breath at the Royal Victoria Hospital on October 26th 2016, dad Brendan knew something wasn’t quite right.
Explaining further the mortgage adviser told Belfast Live: ‘Everybody thought Hollie was perfectly healthy but soon after she was born, she went floppy and was lethargic, was finding it hard to breathe and then passed away.
‘It was unexplainable. I went to a place I have never been before, I just couldn’t believe it – I felt like I was dreaming.’
Hollie’s mum had in fact been diagnosed with a Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection after she was born, and a coroner’s report would later go on to identify ‘Congenital Pneumonia (Group B Streptococcus)’ as the cause of Hollie’s death.
According to the NHS up to 2 in 5 people have GBS living in their body in the rectum or vagina, and while usually harmless it can become a problem if it affects pregnant women – it could spread to the baby – and young babies – it can make them very ill.
Early on-set GBS infection means that babies develop a GBS infection less seven days of being born, and can often develop symptoms including a high or low temperature and being floppy and unresponsive within 12 hours.
Figures cited on the website of Group Strep Support – dedicated to working to stop group B Strep infections, including meningitis, in babies – reveals that on average in the UK one baby a week dies from group B Strep infection.
Continuing Brendan added: ‘We weren’t made aware that my wife carried it, even though 40 per cent of people can be carrying it at any one time.
‘There is a risk matrix, and if you don’t tick the boxes then they won’t test you for it.
‘We didn’t know the reason why Hollie had passed away and had to wait a few weeks for the report to come back, but we had already assumed that the cause was Group B Strep because Susan was diagnosed with it after Hollie’s birth.’
Highlighting a test that can detect CBS and urging the NHS to take action he continued:
‘If Group B Strep gets into a baby it has devastating consequences, it can make them more susceptible to severe illnesses like meningitis and in Hollie’s case – Pneumonia.
‘The message we want to get across is that the NHS albeit very good, won’t tell you about Group B Strep unless you tick all of the boxes to be deemed at risk – and the chances of that are very low.
‘Don’t risk it, just test for it. For £35 it is the difference between life and death.’
Earlier this month an inquest ruled that the hospital was not at fault, despite the coroner’s report highlighting ‘systems failures’. The coroner’s report read:
‘I find that the lack of training in this area at the time was a systems failure.
‘I find that the midwives all acted appropriately throughout in the context of the training they had been given.
‘I find that the use of CTG stickers without a range represented a systems error.
‘I find that the systems errors identified did not affect the outcome.
‘Dr Hurrell was of the opinion and I find that death was due to: I (a) Congenital Pneumonia (Group B Streptococcus).’
A spokesperson for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said: ‘Belfast Trust extends our sympathies at this very difficult time to Hollie’s parents.
‘There has been regional learning from Hollie’s case and as a result Northern Ireland has changed its processes in relation to the assessment of baby heart monitoring in labour.’
Brendan and Susan have since welcomed another daughter into the world, and Susan is expecting the couple’s third child.