My baby died after my symptoms were dismissed as a UTI – I was so traumatised I chose to be sterilised at 35

A MUM decided to be sterilised at 35 after her baby was stillborn in a heartbreaking hospital blunder.

Heidi Gibbs, now 37, was wrongly told by an unqualified ward clerk that she had a bladder infection. But in fact, her tot Enzo was being starved of oxygen due to a deadly condition.

Had Heidi been seen by a midwife, it is more than likely the baby would have survived.

Heidi, of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, has just been awarded a £40,000 payout for the death of her baby, which left her so traumatised she got herself sterilised.

The stay-at-home mum-of-five had been suffering a placental abruption in March 2018 – where the placenta becomes detached from the womb, starving the unborn child of oxygen and nutrients.

But an unqualified hospital worker told her the pain was probably a UTI and said she should go to her GP instead. Two hours later, Enzo had died.

Heidi said: “I thought I was talking to a midwife, but this woman on the end of the phone – who knew she wasn’t medically trained – chose not to believe a word I said.

“The official report into the incident said that had I been seen, there was a chance that the outcome might have been different – and that’s the most heartbreaking thing.”

Heidi said the first half of the pregnancy had gone smoothly. 

But then at 19 weeks, she suddenly began bleeding and was told that she had a hematoma, meaning the placenta had partially detached from her womb.

Doctors told her it was “concerning” and that they would need to keep an eye on her.

But as the weeks went on and things remained steady, Heidi and her and partner, scaffolder Luke, 36, and their four children, Mikey, now 19, Alfie, 18, Jessica, 11, and Ezra, 4, began feeling excited about their new baby.

Then at nearly 31 weeks Heidi suddenly felt an excruciating pain across her belly and back – but had no bleeding. 

The mum said: “I felt like my whole belly was contracting but it was all wrong. This was my fifth child and I knew something was up.”

Speaking to the woman on the end of the phone at the James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston-on-Sea, Heidi pleaded to be seen – but the hospital staff member was insistent it was a simple water infection. 

A senior midwife was consulted – but didn’t come to the phone to speak directly to Heidi – but she also said she thought it was a UTI and that Heidi should phone her GP.

After what happened with Enzo I couldn’t trust it not to happen again, I didn’t think of them as professionals anymore

Heidi phoned her doctors and was told as it was a busy Friday afternoon, her GP would call back when he could, but before she heard from him, in the space of around two hours, the pain had become unbearable.

She called her sister to come and get her and rang the central delivery suite again to tell them she was on her way and this time she would be seen. 

Heidi said: “I was practically crawling to the reception desk because I was in so much pain.”

Heidi was told to do a urine sample by the midwife, who was still insisting the pregnant mum had a UTI. 

She was then helped onto a bed as at this point she was in so much pain she couldn’t move and a doctor took an ultrasound. 

“By this point, my little boy had gone,” heartbroken Heidi said. 

“I was completely numb. When I made the first call to the hospital I could feel him moving, I knew something bad was happening but I didn’t realise he was dying.”

Enzo had tragically been starved of his mum’s nutrients and oxygen after his placenta had become detached inside Heidi’s womb.

Heidi was told she had internal bleeding, and had to go through the agonising process of delivering little Enzo, stillborn, that evening. 

She said: “My husband was devastated. He came to see Enzo and then went home, he didn’t want to see him after that – and that is how he processed his grief. 

“But I felt like until we had Enzo’s funeral, I needed to be there with him.”

Later that night some midwives came to visit Heidi and told her they were unhappy with how things had been handled and would be launching an investigation.

Assuming all stillbirths needed to be looked into, Heidi thought nothing of it.

But three days later, she received a call from the head of midwifery who told her she was sorry about everything that had happened, and only a midwife would be able to answer the central delivery suite phone from now on.

“I just said ‘Pardon?’ Who actually answered the phone to me?’” Heidi said. 

What is Placental Abruption?

Placental abruption is a serious condition in which the placenta starts to come away from the inside of the womb wall.

It can cause stomach pain, bleeding from the vagina and frequent contractions.

It can also affect the baby, increasing the risk of premature birth, growth problems and stillbirth.

It's not clear what causes placental abruption, but factors that increase the risk include injury to the abdominal area, smoking, cocaine use and high blood pressure.

If you're near your due date, the baby will need to be born straight away, and a caesarean section may be recommended.

However, if the baby is very premature and the abruption is minor, you may be kept in hospital for close observation.

Always speak to your midwife or GP if you are concerned about any aspect of your health when you're  pregnant. You can also call NHS 111.

Source: NHS

The midwife explained it was a ward clerk, with no medical training whatsoever, who had picked up the phone and told her the placental abruption she was suffering was a water infection.

Heidi was called in at the end of the investigation, in which the hospital admitted a breach of duty.

The hospital also said the ward clerk should not have administered telephone triage, and the senior midwife consulted should have spoken to Heidi directly.

New rules have since been put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again, the hospital told Heidi.

She pursued legal action after being encouraged to sue by her mum, sister and even the people who internally reviewed the incident, Heidi said.

She successfully won £40,000 after a lengthy legal battle that ended in August last year, but Heidi said the money does not even begin to cover the loss of little Enzo, and never could. 

“I don’t think there’s any justice whatsoever,” Heidi said. “In the end it felt like we got all that money instead of Enzo – it’s not justice.

We were going to have loads of kids, I absolutely love kids – I love being a mum

“I asked the hospital if I could speak to the senior midwife the ward clerk consulted with, I need to know that she’s sorry – I wanted to tell her not to let it destroy her life.  

“I want to be able to forgive her, but I never heard back.”

Following the stillbirth, Heidi was determined to get her tubes tied, terrified of getting pregnant again after such a harrowing and traumatic experience. 

Heidi said: “We were going to have loads of kids, I absolutely love kids – I love being a mum. 

“But after what happened with Enzo I couldn’t trust it not to happen again, I didn’t think of them as professionals anymore, I didn’t think they would look after me.”

But two days before the procedure was scheduled to take place, Heidi miraculously found out she was pregnant – this time with a little girl, Emi-Rae, who was born in November 2019.

She said: “I had her by cesarean and I was sterilised on the same day that I had her. 

“With Emi-Rae my pregnancy was absolutely horrendous, medically I was absolutely fine but my anxiety was so bad I ended up in hospital.

“I was so worried it would happen again, I couldn’t sleep – I couldn’t do anything.”

Emi-Rae is now two-years-old and very happy and healthy, as are the rest of Heidi’s family. 

A spokesperson for James Paget University Hospital trust said: “Our thoughts and sympathies are with the lady and family involved.

“Following the incident an investigation was carried out into what happened. It found there was a short delay as the lady was directed to her GP, although this may not have changed the sad outcome.

“We have been in touch with the lady throughout to answer her questions and reach a settlement in 2020.

“As a result of the investigation several recommendations were made, including checks to make sure only midwives were performing telephone triage, to provide more information for women who are at risk of abruption or other complications during pregnancy, and to share learning from the incident with all maternity staff. These have all been implemented.”

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