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'My last hours with Sally were taken away from me'

Sean Rowlette has spoken of how he and his children have come to terms with his wife’s death during childbirth in 2013.

A FATHER-OF-FOUR WHOSE wife died shortly after childbirth has spoken of the impact it had on him and the lives of his children.

Sean Rowlette’s wife Sally passed away in Sligo General Hospital in 2013 from a stroke after she gave birth.

A jury at the inquest into her death returned a unanimous verdict of medical misadventure.

It was found that the hospital did not properly manage her HELLP Syndrome, which is a severe form of pre-eclampsia.

She suffered a massive brain haemorrhage and died the day after she gave birth to her daughter.

Speaking to Tubridy on 2FM, Sean said the pregnancy began normally at their home in Sligo, which Sally mentioning stomach pains at around 11.30pm. The pair sat and had a cup of tea before making the trip to the hospital.

IMG_7388 Tubridy with Sean and children Leanne and Abbey Source: RTÉ 2fm

“Just before we left, Sally went into each room and kissed all three kids,” Sean recalled, “She said goodnight and that she would see them tomorrow.”

I can still see that image. It says with me.

They travelled to Sligo General Hospital, Sally was brought to a bed while Sean parked the car. However, after 15 minutes there, “all hell broke loose” Sean said.

“Everybody started panicking,” he said, “The baby’s heart rate had dropped.”

She was brought to the theatre and baby was delivered without further complications. Sean went into the theatre to see her, where Sally was holding her newborn red-haired girl, who had been born with cleft lip, in her arms.

After she was reassured it was not the more serious condition of cleft palette, “Sally smiled and was happy.”

Sally has red haired, and we were always slagging her about it [...] but she said ‘At least I have my red hair baby now’.

Sally was brought down to the intensive care unit. After a couple of hours with her, due to her not responding to questions from him, Sean suspected something was wrong, but was told to go home, that Sally “would be up having breakfast” next time he saw her.

He stayed at the hospital, but was told to leave Sally’s beside around 5.30am.

My last hours with Sally were taken from me.

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An hour later he was told his wife had suffered a brain haemorrhage,  and to contact family immediately. She passed away the following day.

Dhara Kivlehan inquest Sean Rowlette (left) with Michael Kivlehan Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Sean said he was left to get to grips with caring for the family with little support. After a week, he was able to take home the newborn – named Sally – and begin to learn how to care for her, as Sally usually made the bottles and changed nappies – “I was always an outside person,” Sean said, adding that Sally generally looked after the children.

“It got easier as time went on,” he told the programme, although he still finds it “very difficult” at times:

I miss the simple things in life, like sitting down watching telly, or getting Chinese at the weekends.

Sean was later provided with seven hours, or one per day, of home help for him and the four children. However, when Sean asked if all seven hours could be done on a single day, he was told “it’s not a babysitting service” and the service ceased.

Sean eventually met with Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, a meeting that was described as positive.

“The Minister did say there is going to be something put in place, if someone finds themselves in my situation,” Sean said.

Read: Sligo Hospital apologises to family of woman who died after giving birth >

About the author:

Nicky Ryan

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