The mother of a young woman who died “in agony” with herpes has said she is “disgusted” with an NHS trust which “lied” to her family about the potential cause of the virus.
Mid Kent and Medway Coroners is investigating the cases of Kimberley Sampson, 29, and Samantha Mulcahy, 32, who died with herpes in 2018 after the same obstetrician carried out their Caesareans.
They were treated six weeks apart in hospitals run by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust (EKHUT).
Their families have been waiting almost five years for answers about how they came to be infected with the virus.
She cried as she recalled her daughter’s “agony” from that point until the day she died on May 22, and described “poor treatment” by midwives which she felt “contributed” to her daughter’s death.
Ms Sampson was initially denied a Caesarean and instead told to push for almost three hours, despite repeatedly telling midwives that “something wasn’t right” and “clinging to the bed in agony”, her mother said.
One midwife told them “Caesarean is a swear word” and refused to transfer her to surgeons, who later admitted that she should have had the operation sooner, she said.
Ms Sampson lost almost four pints of blood after the baby’s position meant an artery was torn.
Her mother told the court: “Kim had a high threshold for pain so I knew how bad it must have been.
“I could not understand why no-one was listening to Kim… the midwives didn’t seem to take notice of her pain.”
In the days that followed, Ms Sampson was “in agony” while being unable to walk and her stomach had not deflated, but two midwives who visited their home said they had “no concerns”, her mother said.
It was not until May 10 that she was taken to A&E at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital (QEQM) in Margate and treated for sepsis.
“She was in so much pain and her belly was so very swollen, she could not even cope with the doctors touching her,” she said.
“She was given lots of blood transfusions, but as fast as they were putting it in, she was bleeding it out.
“Kim was bleeding from her nose and from her operation wounds soaking through her dressing. It was very distressing to see.”
After four operations to drain fluid from her abdomen, surgeons told the family that “Kim’s liver was black and she was unlikely to live”.
Her mother said: “My sister and nieces came to say their goodbyes, and her best friend and my husband.
“At this point my daughter was unrecognisable, I had to warn them what they were going to see before they went in.
“My sister said: ‘That isn’t Kim in there, it just isn’t’.
“I did get to sit and hold her hand as she passed away.”
She said EKHUT had “lied” to the family about a known link between her daughter’s death and Ms Mulcahy’s following an investigation.
It was only after the family was visited by BBC journalists James Melley and Michael Buchanan and advised to submit a freedom of information request for EKHUT’s emails that they realised the trust had been aware of a connection.
She said “a whole tranche of emails” from EKHUT to Public Health England (PHE) also exposed how they had never tested the surgeon and midwife common to both cases for herpes.
A representative from the trust had also claimed that Ms Sampson’s house was “full of children” and some members had cold sores – both of which her mother said were untrue and a “deliberate” attempt to cloud the picture.
Paying tribute to her daughter, she said: “I look after her children every day and, although they bring so much joy, there’s also great sadness that Kim is not able to watch them grow.
“It gives me such a heavy heart that they will never be able to grow up with their truly amazing mummy.”
She added that her daughter’s first child, Jasmine, who was three at the time of her death, still “cries about her mummy”.
“I have not been able to grieve properly because I have been focused on getting answers,” she said.
“I am angry and upset that I have had to do this.”
Ms Mulcahy’s mother Nicola Foster, and Ryan Mulcahy, her partner of 16 years who she had recently married, paid tearful tribute to her in court.
Mr Mulcahy said his wife, who died at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent, had been a nursery worker who “lit up the room when she came in”.
“We were perfect together. This tragedy has left an irreplaceable hole in my life.”
Ms Foster said her daughter had been “a beautiful person inside and out” who “knew what she wanted in life and stuck to what she believed in”.
“We are heartbroken and will never get over losing her,” she said.
Coroner Catherine Wood praised the relatives for their “bravery” in speaking out in court.
Zoe Woodward, a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology who was involved in Ms Sampson’s treatment, said midwives must listen more to patients.
“Something as a profession that we need to get better at is to listen,” she said.
“Whether that would have changed anything, I don’t know. But that is what I suggest would be the most important thing.”
Herpes infections are commonly found around the genitals and face, often with mild symptoms.
In March, Ms Wood accepted an application from the trust to give anonymity to the surgeon common to both cases.
The inquest continues.