“It’s a heartache that never goes away”: Mother opens up about losing her daughter at scandal-hit hospital trust

As ITV Central works to reveal the true human cost of the Shropshire maternity scandal, one mother opens up about her grief, 18 years after losing her daughter at just eight hours old.

  • Full video report by Charlotte Cross

“It’s a pain that… It’s a heartache that never goes away.”

Julie Rowlings wipes away tears as she relives the trauma of losing her daughter Olivia just hours after giving birth.

“You just learn to live with it, don’t you. Day by day.”

It was May 2002 when Julie went into labour with Olivia.

She’d had a back problem, and doctors wanted to deliver her a week early.

But as the hours passed, and Olivia had still not made an appearance, the medical staff tried to hurry things up.

Julie says that despite Olivia being in the wrong position, they used a Ventouse suction cup - and when that failed, they turned to forceps.

“[The doctor] was pulling, at which point I started to slide down the table, so my husband put his arms under my arms to hold me up,” she says.

“The forceps came off with a clang, and he went back in again, because it was too late, she was too far down, and he just had to deliver her."

Olivia was rushed to resuscitation. Credit: Family handout

When Olivia finally made her appearance, she had to be rushed straight to resuscitation. She had severe bruising across her face and head, and she had suffered major internal injuries - while her right ear had been all but severed by the forceps.

But medics managed to get her breathing again - and Julie says she still believed her daughter would survive.

She says she had no idea that doctors already knew Olivia would pass away within hours.

“From we knew, they were working on her - they were giving her blood transfusions, so I just tried to leave her and not interfere in what they had to do,” she tells me.

“So I’m there, eight hours, hoping and praying. I knew she was ill, I knew she was very poorly. But nobody told me at that point that she wasn’t going to make it.

"Had they told me earlier, I'd have spent more time with her in the room, holding her, talking to her.

“But I didn't, I just… I didn't want to get in the way.”

As soon as she found out, she rushed to her daughter’s side to hold her.

Olivia died in her arms.

But, she says, she doesn’t remember that. And she’s grateful.

“I think it might be the one memory that would push me,” she says.

“I think my memories - my body maybe feels that that memory is too much."

The doctor who delivered Olivia, Mohie El-Khadem, was later charged - but cleared - of manslaughter by gross negligence.

He denied the allegation, and during the a three-week trial he told Birmingham Crown Court he did not panic while delivering Olivia, and said that he had used forceps many times in the past without a problem.

In April 2006, he was found not guilty by the jury.

And Julie says she had never wanted to see him jailed - she just wants an acknowledgement that her daughter should not have died that day, and an apology.

In one of the final pictures the Rowlings took of their daughter, the bruising is visible on her face. Credit: Family handout

Now, she’s among the original 23 families involved in the independent review of maternity services at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital Trust.

Hundreds more have spoken up since the review, led by midwife Donna Ockenden, was launched in 2017.

“I’ve been horrified. Horrified,” she says.

“I cannot believe there’s that many people, that many families, all around us, with the same heartache. The same pain.

“But I’m thankul to each and every one of them for having the courage to come forward.”

Nicola Wenlock, director of midwifery at the Trust, said staff were working with the independent review.

“I apologise unreservedly to Julie and her family for their loss of baby Olivia," she said.

"We would like to reassure all families using our maternity services that we are listening and acting on feedback.

"We recognise we still have further to go and I’d like to reassure mums-to-be and their families that we are working to ensure our care is aligned to best practice guidance.”

She said the trust had made "significant improvements" which had been highlighted by Care Quality Commission inspectors following a a visit in November.

The final inspection report has not yet been made public.

The review is now looking at hundreds of cases.

Anyone who has been affected by this week's story can find advice and support here.