Woman who was told she had 'sciatica' after giving birth died of sepsis

A young mother who died on Christmas day, one week after giving birth, died of “multiorgan failure with septicaemia”, according to preliminary post-mortem results.

Kildare county coroner Dr Denis Cusack issued the report to the woman's partner last night, who plans to pursue a full inquiry into her death.

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Karen McEvoy (24) was recovering from the birth of her third child, a healthy baby girl, when she was discharged from the Coombe hospital on December 19. According to her partner Barry Kelly, who spoke to the Irish Times about Karen's death, she was complaining of severe back and abdominal pain, exhaustion, flu-like symptoms and sweating.

According to Kelly, McEvoy's bloods were taken before she was discharged from the Coombe, but no further action was taken when she attended a postnatal appointment on December 21, or when she brought her daughter for her heel-prick test on December 23. At this point, McEvoy's pain had worsened to the point that she needed crutches to walk, and was still complaining of flu-like symptoms.

Kelly accompanied McEvoy to A&E, where she was told that she "may have sciatica" and to go to Tallaght hospital to get an X-ray if the pain got any worse.

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On Christmas Day, Kelly awoke to find McEvoy slurring her words, sweating, swollen and complaining of severe pain. She was brought to Naas General Hospital, where, according to Kelly, she was put on broad-spectrum antibiotics, before doctors made the decision to “put Karen asleep” and intubate her to allow her to breathe. However, during attempts to intubate her, McEvoy went into cardiac arrest and passed away.

Karen McEvoy left behind her partner Barry, and her three children (two boys, aged one and three, and her newborn baby girl) in their home in Blessington, Co. Kildare.

In a statement issued last night, Barry Kelly's solicitor Niamh O’Brien of O’Brien Murphy solicitors said:

“The coroner has communicated to me that he has received the interim postmortem examination report which gives the preliminary provisional conclusion as to the medical cause of Karen’s death, subject to final confirmation of test results, as multiorgan failure with septicaemia due to puerperal sepsis [postnatal bacterial infection] with Group A streptococcus [a bacterium] infection of the uterus and vagina.

We are currently awaiting the terms of reference together with the details of the composition of the investigative panel in respect of the inquiry that is being proposed into the tragic death of Ms McEvoy.

Nothing less than a full external inquiry, with independent experts from abroad, conducting a fully impartial review, will suffice for Mr Kelly.”

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