Grief over baby heart death at John Radcliffe Hospital

  • Published

"I'll never forget her, it's like someone's stolen a part of me."

Aida Lo is still grieving for her daughter, Nathalie, one of four babies to die within weeks of each other following heart surgery at Oxford's John Radciffe Hospital.

Nathalie was just 24 days old when she died on 22 December 2009.

Within weeks of her death, three other children were also dead following surgery by Caner Salih.

The deaths prompted the suspension of paediatric cardiac surgery while an independent review was carried out into all aspects of patient care.

The resulting report has found paediatric heart surgery at the hospital should remain suspended until improvements are made.

'She's strong'

Nathalie Lo was born on 29 November and weighed what her mother assumed was a healthy 7lbs 5oz.

But later that day, doctors discovered she had a condition known as Pulmonary atresia with Ebstein's anomaly, which meant her heart was not able to pump enough oxygenated blood to her lungs.

Doctors advised her parents that she would need surgery.

Mrs Lo, 29, from Balfour Road, Oxford, said doctors explained the procedure to her and her husband Zelio Li.

"They told us they would insert a shunt (into her heart) to help the blood flow, then she would need another operation to remove it after three months," she says.

"They gave me a paper to sign saying there was some risk that it could cause bleeding or infection but they said it was only a three percent risk.

"The doctor said 'don't worry she's strong, it's a small risk'.

"They gave me so much hope, of course I believed them - they're doctors.

"I wanted the best for my baby, I didn't think she would die or I wouldn't have allowed the operation."

'Don't leave mummy'

Mrs Lo said Mr Salih performed the first operation on 21 December to examine Nathalie's heart.

She said he then carried out a three-hour operation to insert the shunt between her heart and lungs later that evening and finished at around midnight.

"After the operation he said my baby was fine so I felt better and went home."

But in the early hours of the morning she received a phone call telling her to go back to the hospital.

Image caption,
Aida Lo is still waiting to find out why her daughter died

By the time she arrived, Nathalie had already died.

"Mr Salih said 'she didn't make it'.

"That was it, he went and left us and didn't tell me what happened.

"I don't understand why she died. I still blame myself for signing the paper in the first place."

Mrs Lo and her husband, who is 30 and an assembly worker at Unipart in Oxford, are originally from East Timor in South East Asia.

They met in Portugal before moving to Oxford in search of work and a better standard of life seven years ago.

The couple have a young son who was also born at the JR and the family intends to stay in the city for their son's education.

The loss of their daughter is still very painful. Mrs Lo often wakes up crying in the night.

"If I've had a dream about her it feels so real.

"I see myself holding her or feeding her and I say 'don't leave mummy' but I wake up crying for real.

"It's like she's just gone all over again.

"I can't accept her death, it's been a stressful time."

Nathalie's inquest is due to be held in Oxford on 27 October.

Mrs Lo said regardless of the report's findings, it would not bring her baby back.

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