Essex family's 'heartbreaking' five-year wait for Colchester Hospital's apology over baby Summer's death
PUBLISHED: 10:30 04 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:30 04 April 2017
The grief-stricken parents of a "perfect baby" who died after hospital failings have told of their years of heartbreak as they had to "fight" for answers.
Summer Martin-Whymark died when she was only a day old due to errors in the way Colchester General Hospital monitored her mother’s labour.
It has taken nearly five years for the hospital to apologise, and parents Michelle and James Martin-Whymark said it was “far too late”.
The couple, who live in Wivenhoe with their other two daughters, described the hospital’s behaviour as “catastrophic” - both in the events leading up to Summer’s avoidable death and during the “heartbreaking” five years that followed.
“We never wanted to be in the position we are forced to be in,” said Mrs Martin-Whymark.
“We would much rather have Summer with us, but because of their catalogue of errors and poor decision making we don’t have her to hold and kiss and watch grow up. Instead we have her ashes in an urn next to our bed.”
When Summer was born, on June 23, 2012, her parents say they had no idea how unwell she was. They changed her nappy, bathed and dressed her and could not understand why she had to stay in hospital. Her mother said “she was the perfect baby”.
The next day, however, when she was holding Summer “her tiny little heart stopped beating and she slipped away”.
“I felt my whole world crash down on me,” said Mrs Martin-Whymark, 40.
The couple stayed at the hospital for three days after Summer’s death, unable to leave their baby.
Mrs Martin-Whymark said: “I just cried and cried. The days, weeks and months after were numb. I couldn’t sleep and if I did it was for a minimal amount of time.
“I would wake up hoping it was just a very bad dream, but the reality soon hit me – Summer was gone. I would never get to hold her, kiss her, see her take her first steps, all those things you look forward to as a mum.
“I suffered, and still do, with nightmares, reliving the devastating events.”
The death has had a dramatic effect on family life.
Their eldest daughter Hollie, 10, could not understand what had happened and now has a fear of hospitals and panics when younger sister Lottie, three, is unwell.
Mr Martin-Whymark, 44, lost his job in a senior management role after struggling to concentrate at work.
Meanwhile, they were having to “fight” the NHS Litigation Authority for information regarding the inquest into Summer’s death.
Mrs Martin-Whymark said it took more than two years for the hospital to supply all the information to the coroner’s officer. “It was heartbreaking,” she said. “We feel this showed disregard to our emotional feelings.”
Then, just two days before the inquest, the family received an admittance of liability from the hospital. They had to wait two more years for an apology, which finally came in February this year.
Colchester Hospital’s chief executive Nick Hulme said: “I would like to apologise once more to Mr and Mrs Martin-Whymark for the failings in care of their daughter which led to her death.
“I believe that we took too long to apologise to Summer’s parents and I recognise that the time it has taken for our apology and for the legal process to conclude had significantly added to their distress and grief.”
Emmalene Buhnell from Leigh Day solicitors, who represented the family, said: “Mr and Mrs Martin-Whymark initially approached Leigh Day to obtain answers and address concerns they had about Summer’s death and to also represent them at the inquest into her death.
“Unfortunately, an admission of liability was not received until November 2014, shortly before the inquest started and a letter of apology, received two years later.
“The delay in acknowledging and apologising for the failures that lead to Summer’s death has only compounded Mr and Mrs Martin-Whymark’s grief.
“I hope that the lesson can be learnt from this tragic case and that where failings are identified, they are acknowledged early on and apologies made.”
Mrs Martin-Whymark says she still thinks about summer “every minute of every day”.
“I ask myself what she would have looked like now, what her voice would have sounded like, her likes, her dislikes, all those things that you think about someone when you don’t have them,” she said.