Woman Who Lost Baby Due to Undiagnosed HELLP Syndrome Settles Claim

A mother recently settled her claim against Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford after the delayed diagnosis and treatment of HELLP syndrome resulted in the death of her infant daughter and her own near-death experience.

Emma Bailey was 34 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to Broomfield Hospital with pain in her ribs in late September 2019. In a matter of days, multiple failings resulted in the tragic death of her second daughter, Mia, and left her own life in the balance.

“No parent ever expects to have to bury their child,” said Mrs Bailey. “Losing Mia was a horrendous experience for our entire family, one only worsened by the knowledge that it could and should have been prevented.”

“Now that our claim is over, I want to share my story both as a reminder to women that they can question their doctors if they aren’t satisfied with their quality of care, and to ensure that the symptoms of HELLP syndrome are more widely understood in healthcare.”

Mrs Bailey’s claim was managed by Corrina Mottram, medical negligence solicitor and Partner at Chelmsford-based firm Gadsby Wicks.

A week of unexplained pain

Mrs Bailey was admitted to Broomfield Hospital on 23rd September 2019 after experiencing pain over the prior weekend.

“I was admitted to hospital on Monday and underwent a series of tests across the following four days,” explained Mrs Bailey. “However, I was never given any assurance over what might be causing the pain, only what my doctors were ruling out. 

Mrs Bailey’s blood tests showed a low platelet count and high ALT levels. This, combined with her epigastric pain, led to suspicions of HELLP syndrome, a rare and serious liver and blood clotting disorder that affects up to 0.9% of pregnant women.

“HELLP, which stands for Hemolysis, Elevated Liver Enzymes and Low Platelets, is a rare pregnancy complication that most often affects women between 27 weeks and 37 weeks of pregnancy,” explains Mottram.

“It can be as life-threatening to both mother and baby as pre-eclampsia, and can only be treated by the early delivery of the baby.”

However, these suspicions of HELLP syndrome were not pursued further, despite Mrs Bailey being seen by a liver specialist.

“The liver specialist said that if my liver demonstrated the same behaviour and I wasn’t pregnant, they would be treating me as an outpatient,” added Mrs Bailey. “However, they told me that they did not know how pregnancy affects the liver, so couldn’t be certain that my condition was abnormal.”

“Furthermore, one of my attending consultants was adamant that my condition was not HELLP syndrome, which I felt unhelpfully steered the course of my treatment.”

When Mrs Bailey was discharged from hospital on 26th September, her pain remained unexplained. She was readmitted the following day after a routine midwifery appointment found protein in her urine and elevated blood pressure. These were also strong symptoms of HELLP.

“After being seen by a consultant at 3pm on that Friday, I wasn’t checked again by a consultant until midnight, despite being in tremendous pain,” stated Mrs Bailey.

“Gadsby Wicks later informed me that I had not been included on the handover between the day team and the night team. This meant that when someone did eventually come to see me, they knew nothing of my symptoms or my treatment in the days prior.”

The healthcare professionals responsible for Mrs Bailey’s care planned to induce labour, which would likely have taken 1-2 days. However, Mrs Bailey collapsed in the early hours of 28th September, around the time it is believed that her liver ruptured.

The aftermath of the misdiagnosis

An emergency caesarean section was performed around two hours after Mrs Bailey’s collapse, after which she was placed in a coma. Her baby, Mia, was transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital for emergency treatment, but sadly passed away on 30th September.

“I cannot fault the team at Addenbrookes for the care they provided Mia in her final hours,” said Grant Bailey, Emma’s husband and Mia’s father. “I am grateful that they explained the situation to me clearly and compassionately, and that her passing was a peaceful one.”

Mrs Bailey remained in a life-threatening condition for several weeks following her hepatic rupture. After being transferred from the intensive care unit to a standard recovery ward, Mrs Bailey was informed that a blood clot had caused a pulmonary embolism in her lung, which would require urgent treatment.

“Our bereavement midwife relayed my condition to the lead obstetric consultant and lead intensive care consultant, who between them contacted Professor Catherine Nelson-Piercy at St Thomas’ Hospital, who is a specialist in complex obstetric conditions,” explained Mrs Bailey.

“Catherine arranged for me to be transferred directly to St Thomas’ – a decision that I wholeheartedly believe saved my life.”

Following several weeks of uncertainty over her health, Mrs Bailey and her liver did make a full recovery after six months of anticoagulation therapy. Nonetheless, she still must now take heparin prophylaxis ahead of any travel lasting over four hours.

“My experience completely changed the way I see the NHS, and the faith I have in healthcare professionals,” said Mrs Bailey.

“Their many failings and dismissal of my condition cost my daughter her life before it even began, and I’m lucky that I did not experience the same fate.”

Pursuing answers and an apology

Corrina Mottram and Gadsby Wicks were instructed by Mrs Bailey and her husband in early 2020 to pursue her birth injury claim, which for the couple was more focused on finding answers than securing compensation.

“After everything that happened, nobody from the hospital adequately explained to us what took place and what went wrong,” said Mr Bailey.

“We were handed reports and the case investigation findings, but you needed a working knowledge of obstetrics to understand them. Nobody involved in Emma and Mia’s direct care talked to us about it either, so we knew litigation was the only way we’d get the answers we needed.”

Corrina Mottram was assigned to Mrs Bailey’s case, and her investigation determined that an immediate caesarean section should have been arranged within hours of Mrs Bailey’s readmission on 27th September 2019.

 “When Mrs Bailey was first assessed at Broomfield Hospital, her results did demonstrate signs of HELLP, but nothing so far out of the ordinary to demand immediate treatment,” stated Mottram. “However, upon her readmission, her condition and results had become so abnormal that immediate action should have been taken for the welfare of both mother and baby.”

“If Mrs Bailey’s condition was accurately reassessed and a caesarean section organised, it is likely that Mia would have been born unharmed, and Mrs Bailey would have not suffered either a hepatic rupture or pulmonary embolism,” explains Mottram.

“I cannot fault the support Corrina and the team at Gadsby Wicks gave us,” added Mr Bailey. “They helped us understand the full truth of what happened to Emma and Mia, much more than we received from the hospital itself.”

Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, responsible for the management of Broomfield Hospital, quickly admitted liability for the mistakes that led to Mrs Bailey’s injuries and the death of her child. Gadsby Wicks also helped Mr & Mrs Bailey receive a formal apology from the hospital for the mistakes that occurred.

“The apology was crucial for our settlement – we needed it for our closure and as true acknowledgement of what happened to me and my daughter,” stated Mrs Bailey. “Again, I’m grateful to Corrina for helping us secure this as part of our settlement.”

Fighting for greater awareness of HELLP syndrome

Although counselling has helped both Mr & Mrs Bailey in the years following the loss of Mia, they both recognise that their lives will never be the same again.

“The pain never fully goes away – you learn to pretend that you’re feeling okay when you’re not. We still celebrate Mia’s birthday every year with our whole family,” said Mrs Bailey.

 “That day a part of me died that can never come back, but we are determined to turn our pain into purpose. Together, we want to do whatever we can to increase people’s awareness of HELLP, and support a future where others never have to endure the same heartbreak as we have.”

Following her recovery, Mrs Bailey was invited by Professor Nelson-Piercy to attend the International Liver Congress. Here, her case was described to hundreds of liver specialists from across the globe, to help aid their understanding of HELLP syndrome and the effects pregnancy has on a person’s liver.

“It was eye-opening to me that several of the attendees that listened to my symptoms would also not have diagnosed me with HELLP syndrome,” explained Mrs Bailey.

“I want my story to reach as many healthcare specialists as possible, as they are the ones with the power to prevent what happened to me from happening to anyone else. That’s why I’ll continue to share my experience where I can, so that others don’t suffer the way I did.”

The couple has also worked to support Action on Pre-eclampsia (APEC), a UK charity dedicated to raising public and professional awareness of pre-eclampsia and similar birth-related conditions. Mr Bailey ran a half-marathon in 2023 on behalf of APEC, raising nearly £3,000 for the organisation.

Mr & Mrs Bailey have also been blessed with a third daughter, Grace, a moment that helped to reaffirm their belief in the resilience of the human spirit.

“I was determined to have another child in spite of what happened to Mia and my distrust towards the healthcare industry after our experience,” stated Mrs Bailey.

“Fortunately, the care we received from St Thomas’ Hospital throughout my third pregnancy was excellent overall, and having Grace was an incredible feeling of relief and happiness for me and our whole family.”

“Now, our goal is to continue to do what we can to create a safer, more informed world for mothers and families everywhere. By continuing to share my story and make more people aware of the risks and signs of HELLP, we believe we are honouring Mia’s memory in the most meaningful way possible.”

If you would like to learn more about HELLP syndrome and its potential impact on both mothers and babies, visit the Action on Pre-eclampsia (APEC) website.

About Gadsby Wicks

Gadsby Wicks Solicitors are the only specialist medical negligence firm in Essex and East Anglia. Founded in 1993, every year they help people claim millions in compensation for delayed treatment, medical misdiagnosis, birth injuries, surgical complications and more.

With an extensive level of legal and medical understanding throughout their team of solicitors, Gadsby Wicks is considered one of the top firms in their field, working tirelessly to support their clients through the most difficult and complex circumstances, with 96% of their cases settled outside of court.

Gadsby Wicks are also the first firm in England to have two or more lawyers accredited by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), and Managing Partner Gillian Gadsby is on the Clinical Negligence Specialist Panel for Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA).

For more information, visit their website at www.gadsbywicks.co.uk, or call their team on 01245 494929.

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Contact Name: Gillian Gadsby

Company Name: Gadsby Wicks

Website Url : https://www.gadsbywicks.co.uk/

Email: info@gadsbywicks.co.uk

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