Carley's Inquest Anguish

ARRIVING at the hospital to be told her one-day-old daughter was dead is a moment Carley McKee said she will never forget.

“We were just numb”, said Carley, wife of Lance Corporal Stephen McKee who was killed in Afghanistan earlier this year. The brave widow attended the coroner’s court last week without her husband but was supported by family and friends.

“The hardest part was Stephen not being there,” the 21-year-old told the Leader. “He should have been there with me. But he would have been happy with the verdict - the truth came out.”

Carley and Stephen were delighted to spend their first night at home with their new baby daughter Keeley on April 20 last year. They were sent home from the hospital six hours after Carley gave birth and had been reassured that their baby was healthy.

“We were told she was perfectly fine so we were looking forward to getting her home and being a family,” said Carley. But when Keeley began to make grumbling noises, turned grey and became limp the new parents called their midwife for help.

“We were told she was fine, that it was perfectly natural for a baby to be that colour in the first 24 hours,” said Carley. “The midwife just told us she (Keeley) needed to be sick so the mucus would come out and she would be happier.”

Both a midwife and trainee midwife visited Carley and Stephen’s home in Shropshire in the hours after Keeley began to show signs of what was later diagnosed as pneumonia.

“We knew there was something wrong,” added Carley. “We were just getting more and more concerned.”

The couple decided to drive Keeley to the nearest hospital but, not long into their journey Keeley’s condition worsened and they called an ambulance. While an air ambulance transported their baby daughter to the Royal Shropshire Hospital, Carley and Stephen were directed to Telford Hospital by mistake.

“When we were in the ambulance going to Shrewsbury hospital we kept asking ‘Is she ok, is she ok?’ and they said they had tried their best.”

Paramedics tried to revive Keeley for around half an hour but she died at 5.46pm.

“We were both just numb,” said Carley. “There were so many emotions going through my head. There was some anger but we knew nothing was going to bring Keeley back.”

With her parents, friends and parents-in law at her side in Mid and North Shropshire Coroner’s Court last Wednesday Carley McKee listened as it was declared her daughter had died from a rare, but treatable condition.

During the hearing her husband Stephen’s statement, which he had made in the wake of their daughter’s tragic death, was read aloud. “It was nice to hear his statement read out,” said Carley. “It meant he was a part of it even though he wasn’t there.”

Since Stephen’s death in a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in March this year, Carley said she has been “all over the place”. Stephen and Keeley are buried together in Banbridge.

“Some days are good days and some days are bad days,” she said. “I have had such a great network of support from everyone though. My family have pulled together and Stephen’s family are always there for me.”

The young widow, who is originally from Carrickfergus but is currently living in Shropshire, has decided to move to Banbridge in the near future.

“That’s where Keeley and Stephen are so that is where I want to be,” she said. Carley plans to take legal action against the NHS following last week’s verdict, stating that she wants no other family to go through the trauma she and Stephen faced.

“I am speaking with solicitors about it, but after what I heard at the inquest I am determined to follow this through for myself, Keeley and Stephen.”