Mum of decapitated baby speaks out about horror birth
WARNING: Graphic and disturbing content
WHEN Laura Gallazzi felt her waters break at only 25 weeks into her pregnancy, the first-time mum was terrified her baby son was about to be born extremely premature.
But what was to happen in hospital was far more horrific than she could have imagined. The doctor battling to deliver her child accidentally decapitated him.
The baby had been stuck in the breech position and as the medic tugged at his legs to try and get him out - instead of performing a C-section - his head broke off in Ms Gallazzi's womb.
Two other doctors did then carry out a C-section, but only to recover the baby's head.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun for the first time about the horror, Ms Gallazzi said she now lays the blame squarely at the door of Dr Vaishnavy Laxman - although she has since been cleared to continue practising.
Traumatised Ms Gallazzi, 34, said: "She butchered my son. How could this happen in this day and age?"
She also believes she was duped into initially forgiving Dr Laxman because she did not explain how the baby had died.
Recalling her nightmare at Dundee's Ninewells Hospital, she described how she woke afterwards in a room for mothers who had suffered loss in pregnancy, with her tearful sister Louise by her side.
Dr Laxman came in and told her the news her baby had died. A devastated Ms Gallazzi assumed this was simply because he was 25 weeks premature.
"Dr Laxman sat to the edge of my bed. She told me Steven hadn't made it. I told her, 'Don't worry, these things happen.' I thought it was because I was only 25 weeks. I didn't know something untoward had happened. I even held her hand. I told her I forgave her," she said.
But nothing was to prepare her for the chilling truth, told to her by another doctor later in the day.
"My son was dead and then they told me he had been decapitated. I was screaming, 'My poor baby'," she said.
"Why didn't they give me the C-section in the first place? Instead of having to carry it out to retrieve my son's head?
"If I didn't have tubes and needles in me, attaching me to a machine, I don't know what I would've done.
"I was inconsolable. I thought they were going to just bring in a body. I didn't want to be left with that memory."
Only three babies in the world are known to have succumbed to such a sickening fate and Ms Gallazzi said it was "like something from medieval times".
"I never imagined this would be my experience of birth," she said.
It had taken Ms Gallazzi a year of trying to fall pregnant with partner Steven McCusker, now 30, and they couldn't wait to be parents.
"It was just after my 30th birthday. We had been together a while and just decided to see if it would happen," she said.
"I was over the moon when I found out at 20 weeks that I was expecting a son.
"We had everything ready - a pram, baby monitors, sterilising unit and so on. We had little outfits and everything."
Her pregnancy was plain-sailing, save for her being diagnosed with Rhesus disease - a condition where antibodies in a pregnant woman's blood destroy her baby's blood cells, but which can be managed with injections.
"I was closely monitored and told my baby was growing strong. I'll never forget the first time I felt him inside me. I was lying on the couch, it felt like butterflies - like wee pockets of air, wee bubbly bits. It was so exciting," Ms Gallazzi said.
"We had so much to look forward to and it was all getting so real."
But at 25 weeks pregnant, her waters suddenly broke.
She was rushed to hospital and then straight into theatre after she also suffered a prolapsed umbilical cord - which, when it drops through the cervix into the vagina ahead of the baby, can become trapped against the infant's body during delivery.
Ms Gallazzi, who worked as a carer for the British Red Cross, said she "felt petrified".
"I had no idea what was going on but knew it was big because all of a sudden there were about 15 medics around me," she said.
"I heard them saying something about two to three centimetres. Then I heard something about there still being a heartbeat, but it was very low.
"I thought I was getting ready for a C-section. But then all of a sudden, the woman between my legs told me to 'push'.
"Although it felt completely wrong, I did as she asked because she was the professional. I tried as best I could, but I was in agony.
"They were trying to deliver him, pushing down on my stomach.
"I kept begging her to 'stop it' and I was in so much pain I even crawled up the bed to get away from her. But I was pulled back down and told they needed to get him out."
Dr Laxman should have given Ms Gallazzi an emergency Caesarean, as her premature baby was breech, but the exhausted medic nearing the end of a 24-hour shift instead tried a natural delivery - with horrifying results.
Ms Gallazzi was only two to three centimetres dilated - nowhere near the NHS guidelines of 10cm for a natural birth, and was in agony as the doctor twice cut her cervix.
She also felt the doctor tug and pull at Steven's little legs, while other medics put pressure on her bump.
"I could feel something between my legs and then all of a sudden I felt a massive, loud pop. I thought I'd done it. I thought he was out," she said.
"But then I felt a sense of chaos and panic throughout the room and I was being told to push again. Then I was told I was being put to sleep and the lights went out."
The next she knew was being told of her baby's death - but not the whole story.
However, the General Medical Council this year cleared Dr Laxman of misconduct and allowed her to continue working.
At the tribunal, Ms Gallazzi heard Dr Laxman's testimony.
"She had an apology scribbled in a reporter's notepad that her lawyer read it out - it was so cheap, as if she'd written it down in the car on the way to the hearing," she said.
"I turned away as her lawyer read it out. Then I turned around, looked her in the eye and told her that I did not forgive her."
Dr Laxman admitted she had tried "too hard" to deliver the baby and the tribunal said she had been wrong not to carry out the initial C-section.
But it ruled the senior gynaecologist had been working in the "best interests" of the mum, and posed "no risk to patient safety".
Ms Gallazzi said she now suffers post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I went to counselling and was put on antidepressants, which I took for three years," she said.
"Once, I had a blackout when a young mum passed me pushing a pram - I went dizzy, had to hold on to something and blacked out.
"I also have night terrors. I wake up in a cold sweat, sheer panic, wide awake - it's a physical thing and I can't get back to sleep."
She now fears what would have been the milestones of Steven's life - Christmases, birthdays and graduation days.
But she keeps his ashes in a teddy so she can have him with her - and she has had prints of his hands and feet as well as the Roman numerals of the year he was born tattooed on her arm.
"Even though I wasn't ever able to hold him, I can carry him with me wherever I go now," she said.
"Where I go, the teddy goes. I draw enormous comfort from it and would be lost without it."
She also wrote a heart-rending card to her lost baby the day after he died - addressed to Steven Charles James McCusker and dated March 16, 2014.
"I will always love you, my darling little boy. Words can't express how sad and heartbroken I am. I am thankful for the short amount of time we had together. Lots of love, mummy xxx" the letter reads.