Andrea Prudente’s partner spoke of how the couple’s planned babymoon in Malta last June morphed into a “scary” experience after they were told the “baby was lost”, ending up with the expectant mother feeling “like a trapped wild animal” pleading to be saved.
The woman was told she was at risk of dying if she developed infection, sparking despair among the couple as doctors in Malta gave no clear answers.
In a two-hour testimony via video link from the couple’s home in the US, Jay Weeldreyer spoke during constitutional proceedings they instituted before the First Hall, Civil Court, claiming the ordeal at the hands of Maltese medical professionals breached their fundamental rights.
The court was informed that Prudente was currently unable to testify, having been recently diagnosed as suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
A copy of the trauma therapist’s certificate was presented in court by the couple’s representative, lawyer Lara Dimitrijevic.
The expectant mother experienced symptoms of miscarriage, with rupture of her membranes at 16 weeks and profuse bleeding during her trip to Malta.
A visit to the Gozo hospital and a medical check-up, including an ultrasound, assured them the mother was fine. She was prescribed antibiotics for a urinary tract infection.
Two days later, the woman woke up again, losing a lot of fluid.
The couple went to St Thomas Hospital where another ultrasound showed that the baby “still looked good and everything seemed okay”.
They were advised to continue the same treatment, return to their hotel and not do anything.
“That’s what we did. Andrea did not leave her bed except to go to the bathroom.”
It was “pretty uneventful” until the scheduled 48-hour follow-up at the private hospital. When they went back, they were in for a shock.
“The baby’s lost. There’s nothing to do,” they were told, in a brief and curt manner.
They were referred to Mater Dei Hospital as Prudente was in danger.
Medical checks at Mater Dei showed that the umbilical cord was protruding and there was no amniotic fluid.
Prudente was kept under observation and needed to stay in hospital. But their medical questions were not sufficiently answered.
“There was very little communication. There was a lot of uncertainty among the staff as to what the hell to do with us… Andrea was terrified. What was going on? What were we to expect,” Weeldreyer told the court.
They were also told that Prudente was at risk of infection.
She was administered antibiotics, was constantly monitored, had regular blood checks and a Doppler was used to check the baby’s heartbeat.
“I thought they could save the baby. But at the same time, they said we were losing the baby. It didn’t make sense,” Weeldreyer recounted.
They were told that the pregnancy was over “but it wasn’t over because Andrea’s body still seemed to be functioning” and, all the while, the couple were trying to understand the real risk to the mother.
Midwives would not answer medical questions, seemingly willing only to speak about procedural matters.
“But what’s the risk?” the couple would persistently ask.
“Infection,” came the reply.
“It was scary,” said Weeldreyer.
Since his partner was “getting really anxious”, they tried to seek advice from medical professionals in the US where in such circumstances the procedure would have been to terminate the pregnancy.
But that option was not available under Maltese law which allowed doctors to intervene only if the mother was in imminent danger of dying.
There was very little communication. There was a lot of uncertainty among the staff as to what the hell to do with us… Andrea was terrified- Jay Weeldreyer
Talking to a bereavement midwife did not help address their primary concern, which was Prudente’s safety.
They just wanted to end the ordeal as soon as possible, tackling grief later.
Watching helplessly as his partner cried in pain and being told that the situation was “indefinite” caused him to panic.
Questioning the suffering, the answer he got was “because there’s the baby’s heartbeat”.
The couple asked pointed questions about medical procedures, whether ruptured membranes could heal, whether lost fluid could return and whether their baby would continue to develop.
‘She was panicking’
Professionals in the US told them that under those circumstances, the foetus’s lungs and limbs would not develop.
In Malta they “got no answers”.
“We tried to figure out what to do… She [Andrea] pleaded with me not to ‘accept this’… She got progressively worse. Her mental state was being challenged. She was panicking, like a trapped animal, that was the state she was getting to.”
Being told that the mother risked dying if she developed infection made them despair.
Weeldreyer recalled a moment when he went down on his knees, put his face close to his partner’s belly and spoke to the baby.
“You were conceived in love… but now it’s time to let go.”
In another moment of despair, Prudente suddenly punched her stomach, pressing on her belly button to induce her body to go into labour.
She even pleaded with him to punch her hard.
“No way!” was Weeldreyer’s response.
They communicated with the American embassy in Malta and also with authorities back in their homeland, including the White House.
They contacted their travel insurance company which, within hours, agreed to send an air ambulance but only if supplied with full medical records from the Maltese medical authorities.
Getting those records was “another battle”, as the hospital refused to cooperate, said Weeldreyer.
“Come and save us,” pleaded the couple with their insurers.
They were finally “evacuated” to a Spanish hospital where, after medical checks and a long conversation with doctors who expressed compassion, they were presented with the options to end the situation once the baby was not going to survive.
Prudente was administered a pill to stop the baby’s heartbeat and another to induce labour.
The doctor and two female nurses sat with them, “compassion in their eyes”, as the couple wept.
“They cried with us. Finally we felt safe. These people cared about us.”
Under cross-examination by state advocate lawyer Fiorella Fenech Vella, Weeldreyer confirmed his partner was “spotting” before starting out on their eight-hour flight from Seattle to London and another flight to Malta.
Asked whether they had disclosed that fact to their insurers, he said he was not involved in the purchase of the policy.
However, the flights and insurance were purchased together before the spotting occurred.
Asked why he had spoken of a “distressing”, almost torture-like experience in Malta, the witness explained that his partner had been “at risk of sudden death”.
“But who told you that?” the lawyer pressed.
“Every doctor and medical staff who walked into our room had a face mask on. I couldn’t recognise them… But they always said that if she gets sepsis, she risked dying.”
Besides, they were referred to Mater Dei hospital after being very clearly told that “the pregnancy was over”.
The court, presided over by Madam Justice Miriam Hayman, ordered a ban on names of doctors and other individuals mentioned in the testimony.
The case continues in March.
Lawyer Rachel Aquilina also represented the respondents.