Two new mums die of herpes shortly after giving birth by caesarean section
The year 2018 was significant for more than one reason for the families of Kimberley Sampson and Samantha Mulcahy.
The two women welcomed their babies to this world but sadly both died of herpes, after giving birth by caesarean section at the same NHS Trust.
Kimberley, aged 29, died in May three weeks after giving birth to her second child.
Weeks later, Samantha, 32, died 10 days after she gave birth to her first child in early July.
Both Kimberley and Samantha were treated in hospitals run by the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust.
READ MORE Family heartbroken after newborn tragically dies just two months after his mum
Samantha’s husband recalled in an interview with BBC: “She just kept saying, ‘It hurts. It hurts’, I told her… that I loved her and just to keep fighting.”
At the time, health officials stressed there was no link between the two deaths, but a BBC investigation in 2021 found the women had been operated on by the same surgeon.
However, a coroner concluded that it was “unlikely” that the surgeon was “the source of the infection”.
The cause of death was identified as a “disseminated” herpes infection before or around the delivery of their babies that caused multi-organ failure.
The trust’s chief executive Tracey Fletcher offered “sincere condolences” to the bereaved families in a statement.
Fletcher also said the trust had made changes since 2018 “to ensure that if such a rare infection arising from this virus is suspected, it will be treated more quickly”.
However, the families have been waiting five years for answers on how the women came to be infected with the virus.
In mid-July 2018, Kimberley’s mum, Yvette Sampson, 54, already knew of the death of Samantha.
She attended a meeting with senior clinicians at the trust, where she asked whether any of the same healthcare staff had treated the two women and was told it was something the trust was looking into.
The mum now believes the trust was not being honest with her.
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The inquest into both women’s deaths heard the trust knew the young mums were being operated on by the same surgeon and by the time of that meeting, the trust was aware of this.
At the inquest, the trust did not deny that it withheld this information from the families.
The trust’s chief executive apologised after the inquest for the “additional and unnecessary suffering the trust has caused these families through failing to answer their questions after Kimberley and Samantha’s deaths and contributing to the delays in their inquests being heard”.
In the summer of 2021, Yvette found out through Freedom of Information requests that the trust had been encouraged to test the surgeon – to check if he could have infected the women, but it never did.
Despite the inquest ruling out human culpability of any of the medical staff involved and saying it was “unlikely” for the surgeon to be the cause of the herpes infection, the coroner Catherine Wood, still criticised the NHS trust over the deaths of the two new mums.
The Mid Kent and Medway coroner said Kimberley could have been given an anti-viral treatment sooner.
Wood also added that in Samantha’s case “suspicion should have been raised” given the knowledge among staff from Kimberley’s earlier death.
At the inquest hearing at Kent County Hall in Maidstone, Wood said: “The earlier treatment is given, the better the outcome.”
Despite the coroner’s conclusion, both Yvette and Samantha’s mum, Nicola Foster, remain convinced the surgeon did infect their daughters.
Yvette added: “Whilst I have some answers as to how Kim came by her death – as a mother, there are still many questions I have about what happened, which remain outstanding.”
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