SPOTLIGHT ON THE ROYAL FREE “I’ll never trust midwives again”; haunting words of mother who lost her baby
Iain Croft still vividly recalls the day he placed his newborn son’s lifeless body in the fridge at the Royal Free hospital morgue and closed the door.
“I carried Riley myself to the fridge in the morgue because I didn’t want some hospital porter who didn’t know him doing it,” he remembers.
“Doing that and carrying the coffin at the funeral is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
“My final memory of Good Friday was placing him in the fridge and closing the door. If I could have swapped places and closed the door on myself I would have done.”
Since that heartbreaking day, over the bank holiday weekend of March 24 2005, Mr Croft and his wife Heather Paterson have fought doggedly to make sure no other couples have to go through the trauma they have endured.
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Last week the former BBC journalists, from Crouch End, saw the midwives Ine Toby and Beverly Blankson, who they hold responsible for baby Riley’s death, found guilty of a string of negligence charges.
A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) disciplinary hearing accepted the pair had committed a series of blunders – the most fatal being their failure to monitor the baby’s heartbeat and notice there were abnormalities.
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And Toby, 71, was also said to be guilty or using bullying language towards Ms Paterson such as “no pain, no gain”, as well as telling her she did not deserve to a baby.
The NMC panel imposed an interim order preventing Toby from practising until a more permanent decision is made about their futures in September.
Mr Croft stressed that he and his wife have battled for six years to stop the two midwives from treating other mothers for the sake of public safety rather than a need to take revenge.
“We’ve gone through every process we can to weed out these bad midwives,” he said.
“If Riley’s life is to mean anything it is that it’s safer to have a baby in London.”
His partner Heather agrees and says that the acceptance of the charges proved that Blankson and Toby were not safe to be around expectant mothers.
She said: “It’s not nice to see anyone facing sanctions in their career, but they have to do their job and they didn’t do their job.
“It wasn’t about vindication, it was about knowing that there was not much we could have done and we stopped blaming ourselves – because we blamed ourselves for years.
“They can no longer deny what happened.”
“They both contributed to the death of my child,” she added.
Ms Paterson revealed the horrifying experience they went through at the Royal Free had marred both her and Mr Croft’s life forever.
She said they were both diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and had to go through years of therapy, but added that they drew strength from their friends, family and lawyer, Sally Jean Nichols.
Aged 41 at the time, Ms Paterson started trying to have another baby very soon after her loss for fear that she may be unable to conceive again.
But when she did fall pregnant again at the beginning of 2006 with her daughter Isabella and a second time in 2007 with her son Rafael she refused to be cared for by another midwife.
“It screwed up our lives, it screwed up our relationship,” she said. “I lived in fear that they were going to kill my baby.
“Even though I’ve met lovely midwives, I’ll never trust another midwife. When I had Rafael and Isabella I was under a consultant. That got me through the pregnancies because every time a midwife came near me my blood pressure went up.”
Ms Paterson now has two healthy young children in Isabella and Rafael and while baby Riley may not be with them, he’s still very much part of the family.
“We have a bench in his memory on Hampstead Heath and we picnic there quite often,” she said.
“We go there every year on his birthday. We go with balloons and the children draw pictures and little birthday cards with messages that we attach to the balloons as they float up towards heaven.”