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Inquest to be held into the deaths of Kim Sampson and Samantha Mulcahy who contracted herpes at QEQM and William Harvey Hospital

The family of a mum who died after contracting herpes shortly after giving birth say time has "stood still" during their five-year fight for answers about her death.

Kim Sampson was just 29 when she developed a serious infection caused by the virus following the arrival of her baby boy by caesarean section at the QEQM in Margate.

Kim Sampson with her daughter
Kim Sampson with her daughter

Just six weeks later, 32-year-old nursery nurse Samantha Mulcahy also died from an infection caused by the same virus at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. She had also undergone a caesarean.

Kent's coroner's service had originally decided not to hold inquests into the deaths of the two new mums, but U-turned after an investigation later found both C-sections were performed by the same surgeon, who could have infected the women with herpes.

An inquest will now take place on Monday, with Ms Sampson's mum, Yvette Sampson, describing it as "something we need to do to honour her memory".

“Kim’s laughter and her smile were infectious. She was a wonderful, kind-hearted and loving daughter," she added.

"She was also a fantastic mum to her two children. It’s difficult to put into words the devastation and impact the loss of Kim has had on our family. It has left us absolutely heartbroken.

The young mum died 19 days after giving birth to her son, Albie
The young mum died 19 days after giving birth to her son, Albie

“I look at her children every day and, although they bring so much joy, there is also great sadness that Kim is not around to watch her children grow and see their daily achievements. It gives me such a heavy heart that Kim’s children will never get to grow up with their truly amazing mummy. Kim would be so proud of them and how they are developing. Her children will always know how much she loved them.

“While time has moved on since Kim’s death it’s stood still for our family. Kim had her life ahead of her and not knowing why she died is the hardest thing to try and come to terms with. We’d do anything to have her back in our lives but we know that’s not possible.

“I’ve fought to have this inquest because of the many questions around how Kim contracted the herpes virus and the conflicting information I feel I’ve received from the [East Kent Hospitals] Trust.

“I know the inquest and listening to the evidence surrounding Kim’s death is going to be incredibly upsetting but it’s something we need to do to honour her memory and so that we can explain to her children when they’re older.”

The "bright and bubbly" barber, who was already mum to a three-year-old daughter when she became pregnant again, lived with her mother in Newton Road, Whitstable.

Ms Sampson was described as 'bright and bubbly' by her devastated family
Ms Sampson was described as 'bright and bubbly' by her devastated family

After a smooth pregnancy, she went into labour at Margate's QEQM Hospital on May 3, 2018. She experienced complications, and it was eventually decided to perform a C-section.

Baby Albie was delivered healthy, but Kimberly required a blood transfusion following the operation. She was discharged with Albie two days later, at her request, but was in a lot of pain and barely able to walk.

Her condition deteriorated over the following days and she was eventually taken back to hospital by ambulance, where she was treated on the maternity ward for bacterial sepsis – a potentially fatal condition – with antibiotics.

But her condition continued to worsen, so she underwent a series of operations to identify and treat the infection.

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

Ms Sampson died after contracting herpes at the Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Hospital in Margate. Picture: Tony Flashman
Ms Sampson died after contracting herpes at the Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Hospital in Margate. Picture: Tony Flashman

It was only after Kimberly 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.

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.

The operation was performed by the same doctor who had delivered Kimberly's baby.

Samantha Mulcahy on her wedding day. Picture: Facebook
Samantha Mulcahy on her wedding day. Picture: Facebook

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 Kimberly, 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.

Samantha Mulcahy. Picture: Facebook
Samantha Mulcahy. Picture: Facebook

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.

"They told us that unfortunately they couldn't save her - that she'd gone, passed away," her mum, Nicola Foster, told the BBC.

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

Herpes is generally passed on by skin-to-skin contact, and almost 70% of adults have one of its two strains by the time they are 25.

Some people will develop cold sores or genital herpes, but about two-thirds will have no, or mild, symptoms.

"The inquest is a major milestone in being able to provide Kim's loved ones with the vital answers they deserve"

Analysis of medical records revealed neither Kimberly 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.

A full inquest into the deaths of both young mums is set to be held over five days next week.

Anna Vroobel, the specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Ms Sampson's family, said: “Approaching five years on, Yvette and the rest of the family remain devastated by Kim’s death and the incredibly tragic circumstances surrounding it.

“Understandably they have a number of concerns about the events that unfolded not only during Kim’s labour and her son’s delivery but also in the lead up to Kim’s death, and whether more could have been done to save her.

“Not knowing all of the facts about what happened to Kim has made trying to grieve for her all the harder. While nothing can make up for the hurt and pain the family are going through, the inquest is a major milestone in being able to provide Kim’s loved ones with the vital answers they deserve.

“We continue to support Kim’s family at this upsetting time as well as other families with concerns about maternity care at East Kent Hospitals. If during the course of the hearing any care issues are identified in Kim’s care, it’s vital that lessons are learned to improve patient safety.”

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