Friday 22 March 2019

'Life-saving treatment should be nationwide', says miracle tot's mum

Siobhan McGreal and her husband Patrick with baby Katelyn at their home in Co Wicklow. Photo : Keith Heneghan
Siobhan McGreal and her husband Patrick with baby Katelyn at their home in Co Wicklow. Photo : Keith Heneghan

A mother forced to travel 271km by train from Mayo to Dublin to be by her sick baby's side is calling for the treatment that saved her child's life to be rolled out nationwide.

Siobhan McGreal (30), from Tinahealy, Co Wicklow, gave birth to baby Katelyn last May 24 at Mayo University Hospital.

"Katelyn couldn't breathe and she was very distressed when she was being born," said Ms McGreal, who lived in Mayo at the time.

"She didn't cry. The doctors took her off to the special care unit to resuscitate her before I had even seen or held her, so I knew something was wrong.

"They didn't have the facilities in Castlebar and the doctors told me transferring her to Dublin was Katelyn's best chance.

"My baby went for treatment on a cooling system in Dublin, and it saved her life, but I couldn't understand why they didn't have the service available in Castlebar or in other nearby hospitals.

"We got a priest to christen her at the hospital before she went to Dublin because we thought she might die.

"My husband, Patrick, went up after Katelyn and I got the train with my mother-in-law the next morning. I hadn't slept and I was exhausted and so worried about my baby.


"I was only after giving birth and I had stitches - it was very stressful having to travel like that."

Katelyn had swallowed her own amniotic fluid and had choked during labour, leading to her being starved of oxygen.

Doctors told her mother there was a risk of brain damage, and hours after she was born she was transferred 271km to the Rotunda Hospital for cooling therapy to reduce the risk to her brain.

"It wasn't until several days later that I actually got to hold her," said Ms McGreal.

Around 2pc of babies in Ireland experience interruption of oxygen or blood supply during delivery.

Cooling therapy, which sees newborns placed on a special mat and cooled at 33C, has become the standard care across the world, yet it is available in only four maternity hospitals in Ireland.

Three of them are in Dublin while the other is at Cork University Maternity Hospital.

"Situations like this do make you realise when you're down the country you're further away from specialist care, and I don't feel that should be the case," said Ms McGreal.

"We want to thank our family, friends, the whole of Mayo and Wicklow, who were praying for Katelyn, and also all the staff in the Rotunda and Castlebar. The staff in Dublin were out of this world.

"Katelyn goes for regular check-ups and she's a normal and happy baby. After all this, she feels like our miracle baby, a little fighter."

A spokesperson for the Rot- unda said: "Although cooling is generally very well tolerated, it does take expertise and can only be safely undertaken in centres that have sufficient experience of cooling babies."

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