Charlotte eases couple's pain

01:00, Jul 19 2010
GRIEVING FAMILY: The recent arrival of baby Charlotte has gone some way to filling the void in the lives of Craig and Ragan Clancy after the death of son Hunter.

Cambridge couple Craig and Ragan Clancy are calling for midwifery standards to step into line with obstetric care after the death of their baby boy last year.

Hunter Warrick Clancy died in Waikato Hospital on February 18 last year – he was 32 hours old.

A finding released by Hamilton coroner Gordon Matenga last week ruled the baby was starved of oxygen following a prolonged labour.

"We were told he was brain dead, there was nothing that could be done to save our baby," Ms Clancy said.

The Clancys came forward following publicity surrounding the death of baby Adam Barlow soon after his birth in Hamilton last October.

Mr Matenga ruled that the Clancys' midwife Sue Bolton, with 15 years' experience, should undergo training on the reading and interpretation of cardiotocograph (CTG) tracings.


A CTG monitors a baby's heart rate during delivery and experts agree that continuous monitoring of these tracings can pick up foetal distress, especially during difficult and prolonged labours.

The coroner's findings included the opinion of expert Auckland obstetrician Dr Sylvia Rosevear who believed Hunter's death was "potentially preventable".

Ms Clancy's waters broke at home on February 15 and she was admitted to Waterford Birthing Centre the following night in early labour. While labour progressed slowly, medical notes show that Ms Bolton conducted regular CTG tests – though they showed varied foetal heartrates between 78-130 beats per minute (bpm) throughout the final hours of labour.

Dr Rosevear believed this showed irregularities and that continuous monitoring could have signalled a problem.

In his findings, Mr Matenga said there was general disagreement between midwives and obstetricians over what minimum foetal heart rate could be regarded as normal.

Ms Bolton recorded Hunter's heart rate at 78 bpm just before his delivery although the Clancys were told it was normal for that stage of labour.

Ms Bolton didn't want to comment publicly other than to say that the coroner's findings did not mention that 110 beats per minute was normal under Waikato Hospital CTG guidelines.

The coroner's report says when Hunter was born at 5.43am in poor condition, he was white and unresponsive.

"Sue took him to a resuscitation table and there were other midwives assisting, they did a great job and he came around, his colour came back and his heart rate went up," Mr Clancy said.

The neo-natal retrieval team was called in and transferred the newborn baby by ambulance to Waikato Hospital.

"Craig went with him and I followed about 40 minutes later as there were problems delivering the placenta," Ms Clancy said.

Problems that continued at Waikato Hospital where Ms Clancy's uterus was torn as attempts were made to remove the placenta.

After five hours of surgery, Ms Clancy woke in the hospital's High Dependency Unit where she and her husband were shocked to learn that Hunter was brain dead.

Fifteen months after Hunter's death the Clancys have celebrated the arrival of baby Charlotte in May, eight weeks' premature.

Because of her ongoing medical problems after Hunter's birth, Ms Clancy was under specialist care and now urges all expectant mums to consider a hospital birth.

"It's about making intervention possible when it's needed," she said. "I really think the midwifery council need to look at how they do things – like seeking hospital intervention for mums, not staunchly holding off until it's too late."

As for their healthy baby girl, the Clancys are overwhelmed. "It's been a bag of mixed emotions," Ms Clancy said. "We are so thankful for Charlotte and she is such a good baby but it also brings back all the emotion from Hunter's birth. It makes me miss him even more.

"One day when Charlotte is old enough to understand we will tell her about her older brother – he is part of this family and we will never forget him."

Waikato Times