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Parents of baby who died at QEQM Hospital in Margate describe 'panic' in the delivery room during inquest

The mother of a baby who died after a traumatic labour has relived the moment she lay on the operating table listening to panic break out around her.

Speaking at the inquest today into the death of her baby son Harry, mum Sarah Richford, from Birchington, admitted "no-one was more afraid" than her.

Sarah and Tom Richford with Harry before he died
Sarah and Tom Richford with Harry before he died

He was born at the QEQM Hospital in Margate on November 2, 2017, after a long, difficult labour and distressing delivery.

Bosses at East Kent Hospitals have already admitted standards "fell short" in his care.

Just ahead of his birth and after being in labour for a significant time, Mrs Richford was rushed into theatre where medics attempted to deliver Harry with forceps before performing an emergency caesarean.

Giving evidence, Mrs Richford, who was deemed 'low-risk' throughout her pregnancy, said while she knew the labour had been going on for a long time, she was "blissfully unaware" of the gravity of the situation.

It was in theatre she felt a "lack of control" despite husband Tom trying to keep her calm.

"Once Harry was born, I kept asking why I couldn't hear my baby" - Sarah Richford

"There were people shouting," said Mrs Richford.

"Dr (Christos) Spyruolis said 'cut her more here' and shouted to a midwife to 'push Harry's head back up'. It felt like nobody was in control.

"No-one was more afraid than me. I was helpless, exhausted and distressed, laying on an operating table, listening to a room of panicking people - people I was relying on to deliver my baby.

"No-one was saying what was going on.

"Once Harry was born, I kept asking why I couldn't hear my baby. I wanted to know if it was a boy or girl as we hadn't found out.

Harry suffered from hypoxia
Harry suffered from hypoxia

"A midwife came over and said he was a really good weight and I knew that wasn't good, that she was just trying to be kind."

Distressed, in pain and needing more surgery, Sarah was put under general anaesthetic before she had a chance to see Harry.

Her baby was brought to her so she could see him before he was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.

Mrs Richford, a PE teacher, was also taken to the Ashford hospital and, distressingly, placed on a ward with other mothers and their babies.

She and her husband soon learned Harry was very unwell and likely to have cerebral palsy.

'" knew something was seriously wrong" - Tom Richford

Mr Richford said during theatre he was just trying to keep him wife calm.

Asked by coroner Christopher Sutton-Mattocks about the moment Harry was born, he replied: "He was silent, very floppy, there was a lot of people making a lot of noise, there was a lot of stress and anxiety going on.

"I knew something was seriously wrong."

To try to protect his wife he tried to create a wall with his body so she couldn't see what was going on when medics were working on Harry.

The couple were not able to hold their son until the morning of the day he passed away. He died of hypoxia, caused by lack of oxygen, at seven days old.

Harry suffered from hypoxia
Harry suffered from hypoxia

Mr Richford said the family has since seen a report by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology showing areas of concern in maternity services, including other baby deaths.

"It's the prior knowledge of this RCOG report that we find extremely upsetting and frustrating," he said.

"I feel that had a number of baby deaths been reported prior then perhaps prevention of future deaths may have happened which may have meant Harry would still be alive today.

"That's the motivation that me and Sarah have - that this shouldn't happen again to anyone else."

During the inquest so far it has been heard there were disagreements between staff about administering the drug Syntocinon, used to help progress labour.

Questions were also raised about the monitoring of Harry's heartbeat through cardiotocographs (CTG), the back-to-back position of the baby during labour and whether Mrs Richford had the dangerous condition uterine hyperstimulation.

The inquest continues.

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