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Tragic mum who died with newborn son 'had catastrophic seizure'

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Kieran Downey (front right) at the funeral of his wife Marie Downey and their baby son Darragh on Saturday

Kieran Downey (front right) at the funeral of his wife Marie Downey and their baby son Darragh on Saturday

Kieran Downey (front right) at the funeral of his wife Marie Downey and their baby son Darragh on Saturday

A mother-of-three who died alongside her newborn baby boy in a freak tragedy at an Irish maternity hospital is believed to have suffered a catastrophic seizure just hours before she was due to be released home.

The revelation came as Marie Downey (36), who was buried with her infant son Darragh cradled in her arms, was hailed by her heartbroken husband, Kieran, as her family's new "special angel".

Ms Downey suffered from epilepsy and the main theory being examined under two separate reviews into her death at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) is that she suffered a severe seizure last Monday morning.

Trapping

It is believed she was either attempting to raise the alarm or reach the bathroom of her single room at CUMH when she suffered the seizure and collapsed on to the floor, tragically trapping little Darragh underneath her.

Ms Downey, who had given birth the previous Friday evening, could not be revived when discovered shortly before 8am last Monday morning.

The mother and infant had been checked by staff at 7am and she displayed no signs of illness or discomfort. Darragh fought bravely for life until he died on Tuesday evening.

Heartbreaking scenes marked the funeral of Ms Downey and little Darragh last Saturday at St Michael's Church in Ballyagran, on the Limerick-Cork border.

Ms Downey, nee Cullinane, was brought up in the GAA-obsessed Limerick parish and lived with her husband, Kieran, and two older sons, James and Sean, in nearby Knockanevin outside Kildorrery.

Kieran received an ovation from the packed congregation as he fought back tears to pay an emotional tribute to his late wife and baby son.

"Marie was a beautiful person inside and out," he said.

"She had a heart of gold. She always put us first.

"Herself and Darragh are our special angels now.

"Our first dance at our wedding was to We Have Only Just Begun - and we had only just begun. We love you, Marie and Darragh," he added, sobbing.

Mr Downey carried James and Sean into the church behind the single coffin containing his wife and Darragh.

James, the couple's eldest son, took three colourful teddy bears to the altar as symbols of the family's love and unity - and his mother's devotion to her children.

"This symbolises the bond the three brothers have," the congregation was told.

The offertory gifts reflected the deep loves of Ms Downey's life.

The mother-of-three adored sport and four GAA jerseys - from Ballyagran, Kildorrery, Douglas and Limerick - were taken to the altar.

Ballyagran GAA club provided a special guard of honour outside the church.

Also offered was a photo taken at CUMH when little Darragh met his two big brothers for the first time. A handbag was taken to the altar to reflect Ms Downey's lifelong love of shopping.

Mourners were told that tears of joy at the birth of little Darragh had turned to tears of anguish, pain and despair.

An independent review into the double tragedy has now been ordered by Health Minister Simon Harris, while a review is also under way by the South/South West Hospital Group, of which CUMH is part.

Tests

Post-mortems were conducted on both Ms Downey and Darragh last week.

The results, including the findings of specialist toxicology and neurological tests, will be compiled for an inquest to be held next year by Cork Coroner Philip Comyn.

While the cause of death will only be confirmed at Ms Downey's inquest, the main theory now being examined by investigators is that she succumbed to a severe seizure linked to her epilepsy.

Ms Downey had apparently wanted to go home on the Sunday but agreed to stay at CUMH to give her time for further rest and recuperation.