A nurse on trial for multiple murders in a hospital’s neonatal unit tried to kill a baby girl two hours after her birth, a court heard.
Lucy Letby, 33, is said to have deliberately dislodged the extremely premature baby’s breathing tube moments before a consultant entered the room.
Letby was working the night shift at Countess of Chester Hospital when the baby, known as Child K, was born at 25 weeks gestation and taken to the neonatal unit in February 2016.
She allegedly tampered with the tube when the nurse assigned to the baby left the room to go to the delivery ward.
On Monday, prosecutor Nick Johnson KC told Manchester Crown Court: ‘It is alleged that Lucy Letby interfered with the endotracheal (ET) tube and Dr. Ravi Jayaram entered shortly after that.’
Child K was born at 2:12 am – but at 3:50 am there was a ‘sudden deterioration’ in his condition as his blood oxygen levels dropped to 40%, jurors heard.
The breathing tube was then removed and her oxygen rate “quickly recovered” after she was given rescue breaths through a face mask, the court said.
A new ET was placed and an X-ray taken at 6:07 am showed it was in a ‘satisfactory position’, the court heard.
Eight minutes later, the tube had to be adjusted after Dr. Jayaram noticed that Child K’s oxygen levels had dropped again.
The tube was taken out again when Dr. Jayaram noticed at 7:25 am that he had “slipped” 8 cm on his lips.
Child K was transferred to Arrowe Park specialist hospital in the Wirral but died three days later.
The Countess of Chester wouldn’t normally babysit babies at 25 weeks gestation, but Arrowe Park was packed so the child had to wait until a bed was available, judges heard.
His cause of death was certified as severe respiratory illness and extreme prematurity.
Mr. Johnson told the court: ‘We are not claiming that what Lucy Letby did actually caused her death.’
Letby conducted a Facebook search by her parents’ surnames in April 2018, three months before she was arrested.
After a discussion with hospital doctors, Child K’s mother and father decided to “turn off the machines and let her go”, the court heard.
The mother described the decision as “by far the hardest of my life”.
She said in a statement: ‘I remember telling the doctor that (child K) was poked and prodded from the moment he was born.
‘Her delicate little body had swelled so much.
‘We didn’t want her to suffer anymore.’
Ben Myers KC, defending Letby, told the court in his opening statement last October that the ‘probable cause’ for the tube to move at 3.50am was the child himself inadvertently moving it.
Her case was another example of “suboptimal care” as she should have received more specialized treatment, Myers said.
Letby burst into tears and abruptly rose from her seat in the dock when a doctor began testifying at the trial earlier this month.
The witness, a registrar for the Countess of Chester Hospital in 2016, told the court about her care for son L, a prematurely born twin boy.
The indictment alleges that Letby tried to kill the baby by poisoning him with insulin.
Letby, originally from Hereford, denies killing seven babies and the attempted murder of 10 between June 2015 and June 2016.
The trial continues.
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