A nurse on trial for multiple murders in a hospital’s neonatal unit tried to kill a girl within two hours of 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 on a night shift at the Countess of Chester Hospital when the baby boy, known as Child K, was born at 25 weeks gestation and brought to the neonatal unit in February 2016.
He allegedly tampered with the tube when the baby’s designated nurse left the room to go to the delivery room.
On Monday, prosecutor Nick Johnson KC told Manchester Crown Court: “Lucy Letby is alleged to have interfered with the endotracheal (ET) tube and Dr Ravi Jayaram went in immediately after that.”
Girl K was born at 2:12 a.m., but at 3:50 a.m. there was a “sudden deterioration” in her condition, as her blood oxygen levels dropped to 40%, jurors heard.
The breathing tube was then removed and his oxygen rate “recovered quite quickly” after he received rescue breaths through a face mask, the court was told.
A new ET was placed and an X-ray taken at 6:07 a.m. showed that he 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The tube was withdrawn again when Dr. Jayaram noted at 7:25 am that it had “slipped” 8 cm on the lips.
Child K was taken to Arrowe Park Specialist Hospital in Wirral, but died three days later.
The Countess of Chester did not normally care for babies 25 weeks pregnant, but Arrowe Park was full so the baby had to wait until a bed was available, the jury heard.
His cause of death was certified as severe respiratory illness and extreme prematurity.
Johnson told the court: “We are not claiming that what Lucy Letby did actually caused her death.”
Letby conducted a Facebook search for the parents’ last name in April 2018, three months before she was arrested.
After a discussion with doctors at the hospital, Child K’s mother and father made the decision to ‘turn off the machines and let her go’, the court heard.
The mother described the decision as “by far the most difficult of my life.”
She said in a statement: “I remember telling the doctor that (girl K) had been poked and prodded from the moment she was born.
‘Her tiny, delicate body had become so swollen.
“We didn’t want her to suffer anymore.”
Ben Myers KC, defending Letby, told the court in his opening remarks last October that the ‘probable cause’ for the tube becoming detached at 3:50am was that the baby inadvertently moved it.
His case was another example of “suboptimal care” in that he should have received more specialized treatment, Myers said.
Letby burst into tears and abruptly got up from her seat in the dock when a doctor began testifying at the trial earlier this month.
The witness, a registrar at the Countess of Chester Hospital in 2016, told the court about his care of Child L, a prematurely born twin boy.
The indictment alleges that Letby attempted to murder the baby by poisoning it with insulin.
Letby, originally from Hereford, denies the murder of seven babies and the attempted murder of 10 others between June 2015 and June 2016.
The trial continues.
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