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Statement from Marie and Mitch Cruz

Published on August 5, 2019

Our daughter Caitlin was born on 5 January 2013 and died 23 October 2016.
She was 3 years, 10 months and 19 days old when she died at The Children’s Hospital Westmead.
We are seeking a Coronial Inquest to help answer our questions as to why our daughter lost her life.
This is her story.

“Caitlin’s story didn’t just begin with her birth. It started a couple of years before, the moment Mitch and I decided to start our family. Caitlin truly began from the moment our decision was made; we wanted to have a home, to be married before we brought a child into that home and into our lives to complete our family. So after making the first two steps happen, we went through IVF.

“After the first round of IVF resulted in disappointment, we put ourselves “back on the horse” and success, we were pregnant. The pregnancy was not perfect, it came with its challenges and I was on bed rest during the last trimester, but Caitlin was strong and determined to be born to us.

“Our lives truly began with her birth and a big part died, when she died. The year started beautifully, with the birth of our second beautiful girl on February 18th, 2016. However it ended with heartache and loss from the tragedy of Caitlin’s death. Our lives changed irrevocably, forever a shadow hanging over us, forever missing one of the two best and integral parts of what makes “us” and every day longing for Caitlin.           

“Caitlin’s death highlights the consequences of actions or inactions, in this case, of key individuals. The hospital’s internal investigation outlines the “system issues” and “missed opportunities”. But I need to know why. Why systems failed, processes not followed and why the ball kept falling at every corner, every “handover”, from the moment Caitlin got picked up by the ambulance.

“Caitlin collapsed at her doctor’s office. Almost all the doctors at the practice left their patients to attend to Caitlin. The doctors deemed her critical enough to get ambulatory care for urgent attention and investigation, which she did not get until it was too late. It was too late for ICU staff, as much as they tried the following morning after arriving at Westmead.

“We didn’t even get a chance to bid her farewell or tell her how much we loved her one last time before she died.

“We left Westmead without our child. We left with broken lives and shattered hearts that day. I remember cradling her in my arms shortly after she died. I remember how heavy she felt and how much longer she seemed, as if death made her grow a little bit taller or longer. I remember her lips, cheeks and fingers, discoloured, turned blue. I remember how cold she felt and I just wanted to wrap her up to keep her warm. I said good bye to her twice that day; the first time, we had to leave her to speak to police officers to make a statement; the second to formally identify her body. I kissed her forehead each time I left her body. I remember telling myself that it is only her body, that her body was now just a shell. I feared that if I didn’t, I would never have been able to leave her side.

“To learn the lesson we need to take away from the loss and devastation of Caitlin’s death, we need to ask WHY. We cannot just ask HOW it happened. We cannot just accept the details of the hospital’s internal investigation provided of WHERE and HOW its own system and people have failed Caitlin. We also need to ensure to ask WHY it happened.

“I ask why every single day, I ask why Caitlin was let down by so many medical professionals. As Caitlin’s mother, I also carry burden of guilt and I need answers. As a community, we need to ensure that the best possible medical care is given to everyone who steps into our hospitals. Trust is bestowed on to professionals at the moment we step into that environment. Lives are being handed over into the care of professionals. Professionals, who should know better and do better, but in Caitlin’s case, did not.

“We need to ensure not to only understand how, where and what current processes, systems and processes fail, but we also need to understand why so that we are able to improve them. These systems and processes have major impact on the lives of not only to those who step into our hospitals, but it also has a profound impact to their families.

I speak not only for Caitlin, but also for my husband and for our youngest daughter Chloe, who will never get to play and converse with her sister, as I longed for and continue to long for, but Chloe will never learn firsthand how much her sister loved her. We have lost someone who meant the world to us, someone who was sweet, loving and caring, someone who would have made a difference in this world had she been given a chance to live.

Marie Cruz, July 2019

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