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Inquest hears surgeon denies infecting Kim Sampson and Samantha Mulcahy who died from herpes after giving birth at East Kent Hospitals Trust

A surgeon has denied infecting two young mums who died from herpes after giving birth – and claimed he was never offered a test for the virus in the aftermath.

Kimberley Sampson, from Whitstable, and Hawkinge mum Samantha Mulcahy died just six weeks apart in 2018 at two hospitals run by the East Kent Hospitals Trust, after they contracted infections caused by the herpes virus.

Kim Sampson, 29, from Whitstable, died of herpes after giving birth at the QEQM hospital in Margate in 2018
Kim Sampson, 29, from Whitstable, died of herpes after giving birth at the QEQM hospital in Margate in 2018

The county's coroner's service had originally decided not to hold inquests into the two deaths, but U-turned after it was revealed both C-sections may have been performed by the same surgeon, who could potentially have infected the women with herpes.

The obstetrician, who cannot be named due legal reasons, provided emergency c-sections to both young mums within eight weeks of each other.

In an inquest session held at County Hall in Maidstone today, there were disagreements over a number of pieces of evidence relating to him, as well as midwife Dominique Bicker, both of whom had clinical contact with the two mothers during their operations.

Both insisted to the court that at no point after the tragic deaths were they offered – or asked to take – antibody tests to see if they had previously been infected with herpes.

Both stated that in each operation, the surgeons involved maintained strict hygiene standards – up to World Health Organisation guidelines. This included wearing gloves, scrubs, and other protective gear, with surgeons also wearing masks.

Samantha Mulcahy, 32, from Hawkinge, died of herpes after giving birth at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford in 2018
Samantha Mulcahy, 32, from Hawkinge, died of herpes after giving birth at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford in 2018

They also insisted that neither of them had any lesions or cold sores that would suggest they had herpes – and were therefore infectious – on the days of the operations.

Ms Bicker also told the court that reported evidence from an occupational health worker – who had been in contact with her following the confirmation that both deaths had involved herpes – that she had previously had three cold sores in the twelve years prior to the deaths was wrong.

“It does say that [in the report], but it is not correct, that is not my history,” she said, adding that she had never had such a sore until January 2019, months after both incidents.

When asked if she would have consented to a test for the virus if she had been offered, she said: “Yes, absolutely. I would have no reason not to – if it helps with answering questions and finding the source of the infection.”

Similarly, the surgeon insisted that while he was also contacted by an occupational health worker, he was not offered a test for the virus either – despite the opposite being reportedly suggested in evidence not yet read in full to the court.

Kim’s mum told a coroner’s court about the torrid labour she endured
Kim’s mum told a coroner’s court about the torrid labour she endured

“There was a call [with occupational health], but everything else [about being offered a test] is wrong,” he said.

“There is not a single thing correct, with all due respect,” he added.

Speaking in court last week, Yvette Sampson – mum of Kim – accused trust bosses of “lying” about the cause of her daughter’s infection and told how Kim endured a torrid labour at the QEQM – made worse by midwives who failed to listen to her pleas that something was not right while trying to push to give birth to baby Albie.

After eventually giving birth to Albie, Kim had to have further surgery to repair a torn artery in her womb and required a transfer of around four pints of blood.

Following the operation, she was transferred to a ward with other mothers. Two days later, despite still being in considerable pain, she was discharged, only to be readmitted days later after her condition deteriorated.

Kim Sampson died at the QEQM hospital in Margate
Kim Sampson died at the QEQM hospital in Margate

Eight days after she was readmitted, a consultant microbiologist suggested trying the antiviral drug Aciclovir, which is used to treat herpes infections.

It was only after she was transferred to King's College Hospital in London that she was diagnosed with a catastrophic herpes infection. She was given just "hours or days" to live and died on May 22, 2018.

Six weeks later, nursery nurse Samantha would die of the same virus at the William Harvey in Ashford, which is also run by East Kent Hospitals.

She had gone into labour four days before her due date, and after 17 hours of contractions and some concerning blood test results was taken for a c-section, which was performed by the same doctor who had delivered Kim's baby.

Samantha's daughter was born healthy, but the new mum was kept in for observation because doctors were concerned about signs of the blood pressure condition pre-eclampsia.

These were no longer visible three days later, but Samantha continued to deteriorate, with her stomach swelling and her temperature and blood pressure rising.

Like Kimberley, doctors thought Samantha was suffering from bacterial sepsis so she too was given antibiotics, which did not work. As her organs began to shut down, she was taken to intensive care, where she stayed for four days.

A doctor suggested she be treated with antiviral medication, but they were advised by the microbiology department to continue with antibiotics instead.

Doctors called for support from a hospital in London, and surgeons took her into the operating theatre to try to stabilise her, but she died on July 4.

The post-mortem investigation found Samantha had died from multiple-organ failure following a "disseminated herpes simplex type 1 infection”.

Analysis of medical records revealed neither Kimberley or Samantha had previously had herpes, so would not have built up any natural protection against the virus.

Women in the late stages of pregnancy also have less protection from their immune system.

The inquest continues.

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