Tobago couple: 'Doctor said it was too late to save baby Amelia'

The Port of Spain General Hospital. - File photo
The Port of Spain General Hospital. - File photo

MINUTES before baby Amelia Williams died at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH) on April 2, her parents were told by a doctor that she had "bacteria in she head" and nothing could be done to save her life.

Amelia was one of seven premature babies who died after an outbreak of a bacterial infection at the NICU earlier this month.

In a signed pre-action protocol letter from Freedom Law Chambers to North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) CEO Anthony Blake, attorney Sue Ann Deosaran said Amelia's parents Tinelle Saunders and Gus Williams received a devastating phone call from the PoSGH at 3 am on April 2, saying that Amelia was not improving and would not make it through the day.

Deosaran said that Saunders and Williams were asked to wait in a room adjacent to the NICU when they arrived at the hospital.

While in the room, she continued, the couple "were extremely worried and kept praying for a miracle for their only child to make it through."

Deosaran lamented that Saunders and Williams soon received the most traumatic news they could have as parents.

"One of the doctors advised the couple that baby Amelia was braindead 'because the bacteria gone to she head and it too late to save she'."

Deosaran said, "The doctor then told these already heartbroken parents that the best thing they could do was to let their baby go in peace and that there was nothing more they could have done because they put her on too much antibiotics. A few moments later, baby Amelia passed."

In the letter, Deosaran recalled happier times for Saunders and Williams when Amelia was born at the PoSGH maternity ward on March 5, after Saunders was flown there by helicopter from the Scarborough General Hospital in Tobago.

"To Tinelle and her boyfriend, Gus Williams, baby Amelia was a blessing. Amelia was their first baby together, a dream they had held close for some time. They meticulously prepared for their baby's arrival, excitedly buying tiny clothes, pampers, baby bottles, a crib, and were in the early stages of preparing a nursery.

"The cashier and truck driver worked extremely hard to save up for their baby and (were) looking forward to starting a family together. The young couple was eagerly anticipating their future as a family and had even begun discussing marriage."

March 7 was the first time that Saunders saw Amelia.

Deosaran said Saunders "observed her daughter in an incubator, hooked up to a ventilator and tubes connected to her body."

Though this was concerning to Saunders, she continued, she trusted the reassurances of one of the nurses that her baby was "doing okay" and "there was no need to worry as this was normal for premature babies."

Deosaran said, "Amidst the whirlwind of emotions, Tinelle and Gus were overcome with excitement upon the realisation that they were finally parents."

The couple made the effort to visit Amela daily in the NICU, even after Saunders was discharged from the hospital.

Deosaran said, "Each day, their visit was filled with news growing increasingly positive and uplifting with each passing day. One of the nurses even told the young couple 'Alyuh baby doin rel good... once she jus reach 5 lbs allyuh getting to carry her home.'

"The doctors advised Tinelle and Gus that with each passing day, Amelia was tolerating increasing feeds and her weight was also increasing, so things were looking up for this little family."

On March 23, the couple was told that Amelia was taken off the ventilator and antibiotics as she had significantly improved.

Deosaran said the couple asked about the antibiotics that Amelia was on, as this was the first time they had heard of it.

She added that a nurse reassured them, "Doh worry, dais just something to help premature babies reach a healthy weight.”

The couple, Deosaran continued, chose to trust that advice at that time.

She said Saunders and Williams changed their view on this when they became aware of media reports of similar situations which other mothers endured with respect to their premature babies.

"They feel cheated and betrayed since no one at that point thought it appropriate to inform them that their baby was being treated for an infection. They only heard about the infection at a later point."

That point came on March 28, when a doctor gave the couple a prescription for Enfamil poly-vi-sol.

Deosaran said, "The doctor did not explain to Gus and Tinelle why they needed to get it, but the couple trusted the doctor and purchased it, and brought it for their baby."

On March 30, Saunders and Williams were able to hold Amelia in their arms for the first time when one of the nurses took her out of the incubator she was in.

Deosaran said, "Overwhelmed with emotion at this point, the new parents were filled with excitement at the thought of being able to bring their daughter home with them soon."

That joy was short-lived.

Deosaran said later that same day, the couple was called by a staffer at the PosGH to come to the hospital.

She added they received cryptic responses over the phone about what happened to Amelia and were told that when they arrived, "a doctor will speak with them."

When they arrived at the NICU, Deosaran continued, one of the doctors advised them that Amelia had an infection and was being put on antibiotics.

Saunders and Williams were confused on hearing this, having left Amelia looking as healthy as ever a few hours earlier.

Deosaran said the couple had no idea what could have gone wrong in the time in between.

They asked the nurses if Amelia got an infection when they visited her earlier in the day.

Deosaran said a nurse told them, "It have another baby dat infected real bad inside dey and yuh chile premature so de bacteria mus be infect she. Dis normal for premature babies. She go be good, doh worry."

The couple became increasingly concerned on March 31 when they visited Amelia and saw her stomach was swollen and more round than usual.

Deosaran said when the couple asked about this, a nurse assured them, "We just hadda put she on a next antibiotic doh worry!"

They also received advice from a doctor who told them that Amelia's platelets and blood pressure were low, so a blood transfusion was being done.

Deosaran said this doctor "also informed them that Amelia picked up a bacteria (sic), but they were not certain what the bacteria was as yet."

She added that the couple left the hospital uncertain of what this meant but trusted the medical staff at PoSGH and "believed that they knew what they were doing and that their baby was in good hands."

On April 1, Saunders and Williams saw Amelia had more tubes connected to her than before and her hand in which the blood was being administered was swollen. She also had blue-black marks all over her body.

Deosaran said, "One of the doctors then informed the young couple that the bacterium was Serratia marcescens. Gus and Tinelle were extremely worried and started to panic as they were unfamiliar with this bacteria."

The doctor, she continued, then reassured them that they need not worry as they were doing everything they could do to help their baby.

Once again, Deosaran said, "Gus and Tinelle trusted these words and placed their faith in the medical staff’s expertise and care."

Amelia died on April 2.

Heartbroken and devasted by the loss of their only child, Saunders and Williams have struggled to accept her death as they blamed themselves for the bacteria that Amelia.

Deosaran said, "However, their perspective has since shifted upon learning about the similar situations other parents have faced. They feel deceived, and as though they were manipulated as they were not familiar with any of the medical procedures and the terminology."

She added that throughout their ordeal, "Tinelle and Gus feel as though they were left in the dark regarding their daughter's medical condition."

Deosaran said the couple was led to believe by the hospital's medical staff that Amelia died only because she was premature.

"They are now questioning the circumstances surrounding the death of their baby girl and are demanding answers."

Deosaran reiterated concerns in a pre-action protocol letter on behalf of the parents of Romani Williams, another baby who died at the NICU this month, about an infected baby being transferred from a private nursing home to the hospital and whether this led to other babies in the NICU being infected.

She said the NWRHA has not answered questions with respect to this matter.

Deosaran reiterated the concerns about delays in providing the affected parents with their babies' medical records.

Saunders and Williams did not request Amelia's records. But they were provided to them on April 19. Those records comprise 286 pages of documents.

In addition to Williams, the medical records of Esme Molino, Aarya Raya Chattergoon, Kae’ Jhene Kerniah Charles, Crystell Precious Miracle and Romani Williams were given to their respective parents on the same day.

On April 16 in the Senate, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said that the babies' medical records would be provided to their parents by April 17 at the latest.

Why was baby Skiye's cause of death changed?

Deosaran reiterated the concerns the babies' parents have about the fraudulent tampering of their children's medical records.

"We demand an urgent explanation from you as to why on the death certificate for baby Skiye Samuel, the cause of death was changed from 'sepsis' to 'presumed sepsis.'"

Skiye died on April 9. Her parents- Natasha Samuel and Brent Wilson- requested her medical records from the NWRHA on April 19.

They have not received them yet.

Deosaran claimed he change of the cause of death for Skiye was changed without informing Samuel, who is a registered nurse.

On this basis, she said Samuel was to detect this significant change, which may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Professional protocols aside, Deosaran said human compassion alone should have dictated consultation between the NWRHA, Samuel and her attorneys about any need to change Skiye's cause of death.

"Instead, the sly and cunning manner in which the cause of death was changed suggests that there is more in the mortar than just the pestle and that our client's worst fears about sanitising and tampering (with)  their medical records have now come to pass."

Deosaran concluded her letter by advising Blake that failure to reply to this letter within one week would see legal action being initiated against the NWRHA.

She added that the court could also impose sanctions against the NWRHA for failing to comply with the pre-action protocol letter.

The NWRHA has publicly pledged that an independent, fair and transparent investigation into the babies' deaths will be done.

At a post-Cabinet news conference at Whitehall, St Clair on April 18, the Prime Minister said a three-member team from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) would do an independent investigation into the babies' deaths.

The PAHO team is due to arrive in TT this week.


"Tobago couple: ‘Doctor said it was too late to save baby Amelia’"

More in this section