by Jack Longstaff
A hospital is investigating after an unborn baby died two days after midwives allegedly ignored a mum's worries about her daughter's heartbeat.
Shelley Russell from Aycliffe, Dover, was 36 weeks pregnant with baby Tallulah-Rai when she noticed reduced movements so went to hospital for a fetal heart rate scan.
The 38-year-old claims she was told there was "nothing to worry about" - but two days later she found out her baby had died in the womb.
The couple spent two days cuddling her in hospital after her death, and heartbreaking photos show them cradling their little one before saying goodbye.
A post-mortem revealed Tallulah-Rai, who weighed 7lb 6oz, had died of oxygen deficiency.
Shelley and husband Nicholas Edwards, 48, were horrified to later find midwifery notes which said the baby's heart rate reading was "poor quality".
A damning doctors letter from an expert who reviewed the medical records said: "Why was she sent home [...] when was she not kept on the tracing a bit longer [...] I cannot really answer why this was not done."
Buckland Hospital is now investigating, after her parents complained.
Shelley said: "When we found out she had died I felt broken. I just started screaming and was in bits.
“All of our hopes and dreams had come to an end. Our whole world came crashing down on top of us.
“I knew I should not have been sent home. I knew something wasn’t quite right. It was my gut instinct.
“It’s devastating. I feel as though my baby’s death could have been prevented.
“The grief is unbelievable. I spend every day wishing to have our baby girl here with us.”
Shelley and Nicholas Edwards, 48, from Aycliffe, Dover, fell pregnant with Tallulah-Rai at the beginning of July last year.
The couple, who are engaged, both have two children from previous relationships but had always wanted a child together.
Stay at home mum Shelley never thought this would happen, after being told in July 2017 she had a blocked fallopian tube.
So when, after 18 months of trying for a baby, Shelley found out she was pregnant she thought it was a “miracle”.
Shelley, who has two daughters, Charlie-Jade Whitehouse, 19, and Crystal-Marie Russell, 13, said: “It was the best feeling in the world.
“It was amazing. We were so excited and couldn’t wait. We couldn’t believe we were going to have our own little girl together.
”We wanted to have something to share together and it just felt right.”
Shelley and Nicholas kitted their spare room out with baby essentials, and spent thousands on baby clothes, toys, a cot, a pram and even nappies.
But everything they bought for their baby remains untouched, unworn and with the tags still on following the heartbreak.
“We spent thousands. We had everything we could have possibly needed, literally everything you can imagine.
“We we ready for her. We had clothes that would fit her when she would be aged one.”
Shelley says she woke up and felt as though something wasn’t quite right, on January 23.
She phoned her midwife and was told to go to Buckland Hospital, in Dover, for a CTG - a cardiotocography scan - to monitor baby's heart rate.
She says she was shown a tracing of her baby's heart rate and told “if you’re happy, I’m happy”, by a midwife.
“I haven’t got a clue about anything like this but I had no reason to question her”, said Shelley.
She woke up two days later and realised her baby had stopped kicking and rushed to the maternity ward.
Following another scan, stay-at-home mum, Shelley and construction worker, Nicholas, were told their daughter had died in the womb.
She was stillborn by c-section on January 28.
Shelley said: “I feel like our baby has been taken away from us for no reason. Our daughter should still be with us. It’s been horrendous for us.”
Shelley and Nicholas were allowed to spend two days with their tragic baby girl in hospital after she died.
Nurses arranged a photo shoot and organised for a vicar to visit the couple to perform a blessing.
The couple also arranged for a memory box to be made, which they keep at home, and holds precious memories of the short time they had together.
"I just gave her a thousand cuddles", said Shelley.
"She never left my side the whole time. It makes me incredibly sad she's not here but we are still such proud parents."
A post-mortem examination was carried out and found Tallulah-Rai died of hypoxia - oxygen deficiency.
And at a bereavement clinic appointment on April 23, the couple heard how investigations had revealed the CTG in fact didn't work properly at the time.
Experts claimed in letters it should have been done again.
Dr Niyi Agboola, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist reviewed medical records and found Shelley’s CTG had a note on it saying “poor quality trace”.
During the test a belt is placed around the mother's stomach and the baby's heart rate is mapped out on a piece of paper - referred to as a trace.
If the measurement instrument loses contact with the mother's skin or isn't correctly applied, this is referred to as a 'poor quality trace'.
In a letter to Shelley’s GP, Dr Agboola questioned “why was she sent home”.
The letter said: “The question to me was, on review of the notes, why was she sent home on January 23 when she presented to the maternity day unit at Buckland Hospital with reduced fetal movement?
“I have had a look at the tracing of the CTG. She had one on January 11 and January 23 and I have compared both tracings.
“Certainly, there is some difference in both tracings. The tracing on January 11 is essentially normal.
“However, the tracing on January 23 had a comment made on it which said ‘poor quality trace’ after she presented with reduced fetal movements.
“The question to me was, why was she not kept on tracing a bit longer or an ultrasound arranged.
“That is what I would have expected and I cannot really answer why this was not done.”
A funeral for Tallulah-Rai was held on March 7 and Shelley and Nicholas have kept their baby’s ashes in a box at home.
Shortly after the funeral Nicholas wrote to the Queen to thank the W J Farrier and Son funeral service handled the service with "incredible sensitivity".
And the couple received a reply just a days later in which her majesty the Queen offered her sympathy and condolences to the couple.
Shelley says she has complained to the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALs) following her daughter’s death and her treatment at Buckland Hospital in January.
She says she has been told her complaint is being investigated and has to been told to receive an update on July 11.
Sarah Landers, a spokesperson for East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Buckland Hospital, said: “We would like to send our sincerest condolences to Ms Russell and her family at this very sad time.”