Hospital ‘threw our baby in the bin’ after tragedy
>>RELATED: Hospital boss apologises to Crows Nest mum
A CROWS Nest mother is fighting for changes to State Government laws after her baby was thrown in a Toowoomba Hospital bin after a miscarriage.
Just over a week before Christmas last year, Halina Parker finished work and first felt cramping.
Only 12 weeks pregnant, the pain concerned the 37-year-old, who decided to get checked up at Toowoomba Hospital.
It was a busy night.
Halina arrived about 8pm and sat in emergency for more than three hours.
Her pain grew worse and she started to bleed.
The triage nurse gave Halina two Panadol and asked her to sit back down as she battled "excruciating" pain.
Another staff member brought her into a private room and retrieved a female nurse.
"And she was lovely," Ms Parker said.
"She actually tried to undress me to put me in a gown, and as she's tried to undress me to put me into a gown, the amniotic sack has broken and fluid has gone all over the floor."
A distraught Halina, although in "horrific" pain, knew exactly what it meant.
Already the proud mother of two "beautiful" girls and three "awesome" stepsons, she and partner Michael Andrews had been trying for six months to have their first baby.
The miscarriage was the start of an 11-month nightmare that destroyed her mental health.
About 1am on December 18, the emergency department doctor started a medical operation to remove the "products of conception" from Halina's uterus.
The first one failed because it was too painful.
Doped up on fentanyl, the doctor asked if she could try again.
They pushed on her stomach and eventually removed everything.
Passing on her sympathies, the doctor said they would monitor Halina's low blood pressure and discharge her shortly.
But her blood pressure didn't come up.
"I just kept bleeding, to the point that there was so much blood there were handfuls of clots coming out," she said.
Another doctor arrived and transferred Halina to the surgical ward.
An ultrasound showed there was still a large piece of placenta attached to her uterus.
Halina was taken to theatre and put under general anaesthetic while she was operated on.
The operation was successful, and her blood pressure steadied.
But she had one question - what happened to her baby?
The doctor started searching.
"And he went everywhere, and I'm really grateful to him, for having a look," she said.
"And when he came back you could see in his face that he didn't want to tell me, you know, that it was nowhere to be found."
An entry on her medical progress notes said: "(The remains) were likely disposed of in medical waste by pathology".
Halina packed up her things, discharged herself, and raced down to the pathology lab.
The pathology lab had her placenta. But the baby, which came out in emergency, never arrived.
Thinking about her baby discarded on a blue disposable medical sheet along with bloody pads and God knows what else, Halina felt herself "snap".
"I don't even think they understood a word I was saying. But I kept asking them to go back and have a look on shelves or in fridges or anything that they could," she said.
In the following weeks and months, Halina's mental health markedly declined.
The loss of her baby consumed her.
Just over a week after her miscarriage, Halina hitchhiked from Crows Nest to Toowoomba Hospital and searched through bins for her baby's remains.
Next, she went to the emergency department and demanded they retrieve her baby.
"And obviously, when you walk in there and say that and your hair's a mess and they can see you're a mess, they put you in a psych ward," she said.
She wasn't showering or brushing her hair. She was highly medicated. When she left the mental health unit in early January, she drank heavily.
"All it takes is something a little bit greater than what you're used to dealing with just to make someone snap," Halina said.
"And I can understand how psychosis affects people because at the time that I was at Toowoomba Hospital wondering how to get to the bins and all that sort of stuff, I had snapped.
"I was out of my own body. I can't even describe that feeling."
Halina's confronting ordeal leads to an important question - what is counted as a baby?
People said to her at 12 weeks, the life inside her "wasn't really a baby yet".
But to her, it was a baby as soon as she knew she was pregnant.
In Australia, a baby is classed as stillborn if it dies after 20 weeks gestation.
There are legal procedures in place at the Toowoomba Hospital when a pregnancy loss occurs at greater than 20 weeks gestation, but not for miscarriages before that point.
Halina has now returned to work and has a new goal - to ensure the trauma of the last year is not visited upon anyone ever again.
Halina and Michael have created a Change.org petition requesting that a bill be passed by the Queensland parliament that gives all parents the right to say goodbye if they choose to.
"All babies no matter the gestation should be kept for a minimum of one week until the parents are ready to state their wishes," she said.
The bill would require health care professionals to ask: Would you like to take your baby for your own memorial? Or would you like us to help ease the pain and handle this for you?
"Grief and mental health go hand-in-hand. Grief can destroy a person," she said.
"Giving parents options can help them heal and gain closure."
Halina this week received word from Darling Downs Health chief executive Dr Peter Gillies that the hospital had implemented significant changes to better support those who have been through a miscarriage as a result of her ordeal.
But she would like to see those changes made state, or even federal law.
The petition currently has more than 630 signatures, and she has written to Condamine MP Pat Weir, and Toowoomba North and South MPs Trevor Watts and David Janetzki.
She's even written to Pauline Hanson and Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the hope of getting the word out there.
"My focus is just to get this done so it doesn't happen to another family. That would be great."
The petition can be found at http://chng.it/ZnHrtZkL.