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Caitlin died from the flu in hospital – why I want her death investigated

We left Westmead without our child. We left with broken lives and shattered hearts. 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.

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The hospital’s internal investigation outlines the “system issues” and “missed opportunities” that led to her death. But I need to know why. Why systems failed, processes were not followed, and why the ball kept falling at every corner, every “handover” from the moment Caitlin got picked up by the ambulance.

As Caitlin’s mother, I carry a burden of guilt, and I need answers, but 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 professionals the moment we step into that environment. Lives are being handed over into their care: professionals, who should know better and do better but, in Caitlin’s case, did not.

We need to understand why systems and processes failed so that we are able to improve them. They have a major impact on the lives not only of those who step into our hospitals but a profound impact on their families. That’s why I am calling for a coronial inquest into Caitlin’s death.

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. Chloe will never learn firsthand how much her sister loved her. We have lost someone who meant the world to us, who was sweet, loving and caring, who would have made a difference in this world had she been given a chance to live.

Marie Cruz is a Sydney mother.

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