A MUM was made to feel she was being "over-dramatic" just hours before her baby died, an inquest heard.
Nicole Ditchfield's son passed away a day after being born following a severe brain injury, which the family blame on a lack of oxygen.
Stockport Coroners Court heard how Nicole had a "normal" pregnancy until she went into labour, bar contracting Covid once.
She visited the maternity unit twice after her contractions started, but was allegedly told to go home both times.
When they grew stronger and she started vomiting and bleeding, she made 13 calls to the hospital – but each one went unanswered.
During her third visit to Tameside General Hospital, midwives struggled to detect a heartbeat and little Luca was delivered by an emergency C-section on January 23, 2022.
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The tot was left with severe brain damage and his devastated parents made the decision to withdraw his life support. He died the following day.
Nicole told the inquest that her first pregnancy appointment was on May 30, 2021, which she attended with her partner Jack Yates.
Everything went smoothly, and on January 7, 2022, they had a "reassuring" 39-week meeting which showed their unborn child weighed 7lbs and 1oz and was "moving well".
"I felt myself," Nicole, from Ashton-under-Lyne, said.
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But five days later, the business administrator noticed some "light pink spotting" and contacted the team.
She was reportedly told to wait until her routine appointment on January 18, where she was booked in to be induced on January 24.
However, at 6.45am on January 22, Nicole started experiencing contractions so was advised to have a bath, take paracetamol and try to sleep.
Her condition worsened, so she called the unit again at 1.50pm but was told she was not yet in "active labour" as her contractions were not happening every four minutes.
During a third phonecall, Nicole reported blood loss and was urged to visit to the unit.
But after "listening" to the baby's heart rate and finding Nicole was only 4cm dilated, she was assured that everything was "fine" and was sent home with pain relief medication, the court heard.
The mum-to-be was told to return when her contractions were every three minutes for at least an hour.
Nicole managed to get two hours of "broken" sleep, but was woken by the pain of her contractions.
She was also still bleeding and began being sick and could not keep food or fluids down, so called the unit again.
Once there, a midwife determined her waters had not broken and allegedly failed to ask about blood or fluid loss.
Again, Nicole was told to go home, it is alleged.
I was made to feel I was being over-dramatic.
She told the court that she then vowed to wait until she was experiencing contractions every three minutes because she didn't want to "bother" the midwives – despite being in severe pain.
The next day, Nicole made 13 unanswered phone calls to the unit.
"It just rang and rang. Not an engaged tone, it was just not getting answered," she said.
Someone eventually picked up the 14th call at 2.45pm.
Nicole said she was then told she needed to be put through to triage but nobody answered there either.
"Eventually I got through but I was told it didn't seem like I was in active labour," she told the hearing.
"I was made to feel I was being over-dramatic."
Once finally back in hospital, the midwife that greeted her was "shocked" by the fact she was now 10cm dilated, the inquest heard.
Nicole said they tried to record the baby's heart rate and the "numbers were dropping on the machine", but she wasn't aware there was any "urgency or concern" for her baby.
Staff then "rushed around" and Nicole had an emergency C-section.
Jack told the court that "people were running around in a manic fashion", and someone later revealed that the "baby was out but struggling to breathe".
"I was shocked by how ill he looked," he said, adding that he was later told little Luca had suffered brain damage due to a lack of oxygen and it had taken 40 minutes to resuscitate him.
Nicole recalled seeing her mum crying, but feeling "grateful" that staff had tried to hard to save her son, with the doctors apologising that they "could not do more".
Nicole and Jack then made the "awful" decision to remove Luca's ventilation. He died a short time later.
The mum, who has since had another baby, said she was told the hospital was investigating what happened, but she was not informed that anything had gone wrong.
It was only when she saw the report by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) that she understood the "severity" of the alleged failings.
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This includes a "local perception" that a mother's contractions had to be once every three minutes for at least an hour before "established labour" could be diagnosed.
According to the HSIB, this delayed Nicole's diagnosis. The inquest continues.
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