“One Particular Campaigner Keeps Writing Again And Again”

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90306221Praveen Halappanavar with his solicitor Gerard O’Donnell in April)

Praveen Halappanavar spoke with Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio One this morning in light of his intention to sue the HSE for medical negligence following the death of his pregnant 31-year-old wife Savita last October.

He also spoke about hate mail.

Praveen Halappanavar: “The last few months have been terribly, terribly tough, I’m still coping with the loss.”

Miriam O’Callaghan: “Where were you when received that HSE report?”

Praveen: “Well I was away home, the day before. And I never knew that the HSE report would be published. We just received an email the night before.”

Miriam: “Did you find that stressful, that you were away when it came out?”

Praveen: “Yes, it was very stressful because you know the media were wanting, I was planning spend some peaceful time with the family but unfortunately it wouldn’t, I had to change the plan.”

Miriam: “When you sat down to read the report, what did you make of it?”

Praveen: “Well, as I’ve been saying, right from the beginning, you know, the HSE, you know, investigation panel was set up and the whole thing never had,you know, I mean, it was still HSE and, as expected, so there was nothing really, you know, no truth, coming out of the HSE report.”

Miriam: “And yet it was chaired obviously by an independent professor with vast experience?”

Praveen: “Yes I do, with due respect, I talked to the chairperson and the committee, but I guess, you also need to understand, you know, that it’s more kinda recommendations rather than, you know, getting to the bottom of the truth.”

Miriam: “It was quite damning in its findings though, Praveen. Because, just to quote from it, you know, it said it was ‘inadequate assessment and monitoring to pick up the deterioration of Savita’s condition’, a ‘failure to adhere to hospital guidelines for managing sepsis’ and ‘a failure also to offer her all management options as she experienced inevitable miscarriage’. They also said there was a ‘lack of recognition of the gravity of the risk to her health, that led to delays and aggressive treatments’. So it was pretty damning of the hospital.”

Praveen: “Yes, there was nothing new, compared to the outcome of the inquest. So we were, you know. I guess if they had gone further deep and, you know, to see, and you know, to get to the bottom of the truth, it would be more helpful I suppose.”

Miriam: “You spoke to me before in an interview and said you were positive and optimistic, that you would get to the bottom of the truth. If you feel you haven’t got that with the HSE, are you more confident you might get that with the HIQA inquiry?”

Praveen: “I don’t think so. HIQA looks more into, you know, the facility itself, the hospital and, you know, it’s more like an audit, auditing facility and, you know, the capability of the hospital. But the reason I said you know, that I see bright days or that I’m optimistic is because we are pushing on public inquiry which we still, you know, are seeking.”

Miriam: “As well as acknowledging your own suffering. That HSE report points out that that whole experience was also incredibly stressful for the staff at Galway (University) Hospital and some are still on sick and stress leave. Were you aware of that?”

Praveen: “Yes, I have read it in the newspaper. And I could, you know, see the stress that you know nurses, and basically, witnesses at the coroner’s inquest, you know, I could see it in their eyes and I do understand you know. And I’ve received a number of messages and letters from the staff. It’s…I can understand their feelings, it’s not easy for them as well.”

Miriam: “Because I suppose, to be fair, they point out that, in 16 years, it was there first mortality of a mother, so from their point of view it was devastating maybe for them.”

Praveen: “Yes, I do. I agree. Yes, it is devastating to anybody.”

Miriam: “What would you like to happen now? What would you want to happen now. The inquest, I spoke to you after that, you were quite pleased with the inquest afterwards, weren’t you?”

Praveen: “Yes, I was. That was one of the reasons I was very optimistic and I said to you I can see the bright days ahead. But there’s nothing happened since then basically, you know. We want, as I said, we want to get to the bottom of the truth and the inquest had certain boundaries which we do appreciate and do understand but still someone, you know, has to answer why she died.”

Miriam: “And you feel you haven’t got an answer to that yet?”

Praveen: “Yes, I haven’t got an answer, yeah.”

Miriam: “And what would you say maybe to the HSE report’s finding that it was almost systemic at the end of the day, a systemic failure…no particular individual was at fault.”

Praveen: “Yeah, I mean it’s basically, you know, the report itself was very anonymous and you know it’s, I think it’s a complete whitewash basically. You know, as I said, it’s more an audit report, rather than a, you know, identifying the truth, you know, or the cause of the death.”

Miriam: “And yet, if you look at the guidelines of the report it says they did have to be anonymised, if you look at the small print.”

Praveen: “Yes, yeah.”

Miriam: “Savita’s parents recently spoke to Kitty Holland in the Irish Times and they’re very unhappy with that report, aren’t they?”

Praveen: “Yes. I’ve been talking regularly to them and yeah, it’s, they basically get very regular updates from myself and I’ve been keeping them up to date on the progress and, you know, also on the report. And he (Savita’s father) couldn’t read it, you know? He had a copy of it and he said he can’t read it so he just asked me, you know, a synopsis of the report so I had to tell him that it’s more kinda a recommendation, you know, to the hospital, you know, or the guidelines rather than, you know, determining the cause of death, or the truth basically, so he was very upset with that.”

Miriam: “Are they angry with Ireland, Savita’s parents? Do they regret she ever came here?”

Praveen: “Not really because they were here. They spent a very good time, basically three months. And they had all sweet memories. And I took a copy of the pictures that we took here, all the photos of the scenic Ireland, and they had tears in their eyes when they saw the pictures. Basically they wanted to keep them as a memory.”

Miriam: “They also mentioned in that interview with Kitty that Savita had great faith and prayed every day. Do you find that a help now? Do you pray like Savita?”

Praveen: “Well yes, big time. I mean we both had, you know, very good faith and, you know, religion and almighty, but I’m not able to understand why this happened and that big question mark is still in my mind, you know. Every day I pray and I keep asking why did this happen to us? It’s all the tough time that the whole family has to go through… it’s never been easy and I still keep asking that question and I never lost the trust and the hope.”

Miriam: “Do you sometimes wake up, Praveen, and think has this all been just a terribly bad dream?”

Praveen: “Well, I hardly sleep you know? I do wake up and dream about it. That’s something I’m still working on so…it’s been a very tough journey so far.”

Miriam: “Because this time last year, I think Savita was just pregnant, she’d have been about a fortnight pregnant with all the joy that you were both looking forward to.”

Praveen: “Yes, I mean we had various different plans, you know, like any new couple or young couple. And I still can remember everything that we discussed, you know? So it’s been very hard.”

Miriam: “I thought it was really magnanimous of her parents to pay tribute to that midwife Ann Marie Burke. You’ve done that before with me actually. But they wanted to single her out for praise.”

Praveen: “Yes, basically, they do appreciate anybody talking or speaking the truth so, which has helped them in some way, basically. It gives them some satisfaction that somebody has spoken the truth because we would never, why would we come up with that story that ‘it’s a Catholic thing’. We would never do that. So it was a big relief for the entire family and the whole family do appreciate that particular midwife for being so honest. We do understand it’s very, very difficult for someone to come out and tell the truth. It came out of blue.”

Miriam: “That HSE report also talks about some of the staff in Galway receiving abusive and verbal abuse, abusive letters. Were you aware of that? That they had been receiving these abusive letters?”

Praveen: “Yes I did rec..I did read it in the newspaper and even I have been receiving abusive letters.”

Miriam: “You have?”

Praveen: “Yes, I have been, from different campaigners. And there is one particular campaigner that keeps writing again and again. So, basically, I was told to leave the country and was told to clean the mess that, you know, I have…our country has, rather than cleaning the mess here, you know, to leave with the stuff for them to clean and mind my own business. It’s a hard thing basically, it’s not…”

Miriam: “That’s quite shocking.”

Praveen: “Yes, it is.”

Miriam: “What do you say to people who believe there’s some kind of an agenda at the back of this, to try and introduce abortion on demand and, although they would have sympathy for you, would say ‘oh, this is all a bit of a coincidence’ and they think you’re in fact being used by a pro-abortion lobby.”

Praveen: “All I can say is that, I’ve never been for the abortion thing, you know we’ve never located or participated in any abortion debate, or we don’t follow that. All we are here is to get to the bottom of the truth. And the whole family wants that no woman has to go through the same pain that Savita had to go through and, you know, no family go through the circumstances that we had to face as a family.”

Miriam: “Had you any idea when that incredible tragedy befell you, that it would turn into such a major political turmoil for Ireland? Because even, this week alone, political parties are imploding under the pressure of this new abortion legislation.”

Praveen: “No, we never had any clue that this would happen.”

Miriam: “Do you pay any attention to that legislation that’s going through?”

Praveen: “No.”

Miriam: “You’re going to pursue some legal cases now, are you?”

Praveen: “Well yes, I’m basically going to the European Court of Human Rights at the minute, we’re planning.”

Miriam: “And what will you be seeking in the European Court of Human Rights?”

Praveen: “We want, if there’s no public inquiry then that’s the next step basically, you know? As I said, we want to get to the bottom of the truth and somebody has to take responsibility of the cause.”

Miriam: “You’re just about to initiate legal proceedings for negligence against Galway Hospital. Why are you doing that?”

Praveen: “Well, it’s a family decision, you know? Savita’s father is, you know, the whole family is very angry and, you know, they want to take legal proceedings against the hospital.”

Miriam: “Was that a big decision for you to make?”

Praveen: “Yes, it was.”

Miriam: “Why was it a big decision?”

Praveen: “Because we’re not getting to the part of the truth and the HSE report is nowhere near to it.”

Miriam: “Is there a danger that some people might say ‘Praveen, although they feel very sorry for you, you’re not actually seeking the truth, you’re now seeking money?”

Praveen: “That’s not true. Basically, you know, we did try, we did push a public inquiry, it’s never happened. So we see this as the only option left to us at the minute.”

Miriam: “What the hospital board had said was that they were going to wait for the HIQA report before they decided what action to take. Why not wait for the HIQA report?”

Praveen: “Well, I have the terms and references on the HIQA report and it’s more kinda, as I said before, it’s a audit of facility incapable of the hospital but it doesn’t get to the bottom of the truth, which we are seeking.”

Miriam: “Will you not find it very traumatic to go through another court case and all that evidence about Savita? All that upsetting evidence that will come out again?”

Praveen: “Yes, it would be but the family wants it so we want to do it for Savita’s parents and they want to know the truth and they have every right to know the truth.”

Miriam: “And how will you prepare yourself, psychologically and emotionally, for a court case like that?”

Praveen: “Every day has been very tough, you know, since the loss. And I get all this sent from her.”

Miriam: “Do you think Savita would want you to take this case?”

Praveen: “Yes. Very much.”

Miriam: “Why?”

Praveen: “Because she was that kind of person who always had a million dollar smile on her face and she was always, she wanted always good things to happen to everyone around her, so we don’t want any woman to suffer what Savita did and you know…”

Miriam: “Those people in Galway, who are suffering from stress, are probably hoping it will all go away, it will end. And that you don’t pursue it any more. Would you assume that’s what they’re hoping?”

Praveen: “Well it’s, the way I put it in short is, you know, tell me the truth and it’ll all be over. There are some midwives who never attended the inquest, you know, it still bothers me. But if the truth comes out, you know?”

Miriam: “Because you really believe Praveen that there is more to come out, don’t you?”

Praveen: “Yes.”

Miriam: “When you say to me, you want to get to the bottom of the truth, what do you mean by that?”

Praveen: “What happened? Basically, why did they not, you know, treat her the way she should have been and I have seen it all and I was always kept in the dark. And I could feel somewhere that something is going wrong but I never thought that it would be, you know, this serious, that I would lose her.”

Miriam: “And is it possible that it was just a series of unintended, medical mistakes but no-one set out to hurt Savita? And that that is the only truth that is there? That there is no hidden agenda, and there is no hidden truth?”

Praveen: “I don’t know. And that’s something I want to, I’d like to know. Some witnesses said they made a call, and some witnesses said that they never received a call, so I just want to understand what’s happening here.”

Miriam: “And you think that there might have been more than just a bad series of mistakes or omissions?”

Praveen: “I don’t know, I just want to seek the truth.”

Miriam: “You’re going to meet the Minister for Health next week, James Reilly. Why are you going to meet him?”

Praveen: “We have met him twice now before the report was out. He didn’t have the report at the time but now we have the report so we want to put the concerns through.”

Miriam: “He of course referred that report, Praveen, to the Medical Council and the nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland, for consideration. Were you pleased that he did that?”

Praveen: “Yes, we are. And we would also like to get some more details on that, you know? Basically, to understand the reason behind you know that particular move.”

Miriam: “And when he asks you what you think of the HSE report, what will you be saying to him?”

Praveen: “Yes of course I’m going to tell him that it’s a whitewash and I’m going to also tell him the whole family is very disappointed and shocked.”

Miriam: “And when he says to you, ‘what do you now want?’, Praveen to happen, what will you say to the minister?”

Praveen: “Of course, a public inquiry.”

Miriam: “Do you think that will get you the truth?”

Praveen: “Yes.”

Miriam: “Why?”

Praveen: “Because we can cross examine the witness whereas in the inquest we had to obey the boundaries of the coroner’s inquest and so we think we can go a step further and ask them the question ‘why?'”

Miriam: “Do you think it helps you deal with your grief? That you have these other things happening now, that you will be taking a court case, that you would like a public inquiry. Is that your way of coping in a sense with the loss of Savita, that you seem to be doing all these other things in her memory?”

Praveen: “Yes, I mean the support we’ve been receiving is overwhelming and you know, it’s been amazing that we use as strength to stand firm and seek justice.”

Miriam: “They say with bereavement, Praveen, there are different stages of grief. Particularly profound, tragic bereavement. What stage would you say you’re in at the moment?”

Praveen: “I still you know, have just started realising, you know, that Savita, you know, is not with me. And I’ve just been keeping, you know, myself very busy, going back home is never easy. You know, it’s still, I can feel all the memories and you know do very well remember the memories and when I go out a single bit of my life, you know, has been full of memories and it’s…I don’t know what stage, I can’t explain that, but I can’t put it in words what, it’s terribly, terribly tough.”

Miriam: “Are there tougher times in the day or has there been the toughest moment? Or are they all tough?”

Praveen: “All tough. You know, some way or other, I do come across all the good times we had because she loved this place and yeah, it’s never been easy.”

Miriam: “Some people drown themselves in work. Have you been working a lot? Does that help?”

Praveen: “Yes, it’s a very big help for me. And, you won’t believe it, I worked, I was working even during the inquest. I was at work in the morning and I stared the inquest at half nine. I used to be early you know to work and yes, going back to work has been a tremendous help and I’m just trying to get back to the normal routine and everyone at work has been amazing. They don’t know where to draw the line and they do understand it’s a big company and yeah, that’s been a very big help.”

Miriam: “Do you think you’ll ever find out, from your perspective, the truth, as you say about what happened to Savita. Will you ever actually get to the bottom of that?”

Praveen: “Yeah, I think, as I said before I’m very optimistic and the whole family is behind me and also the people of Ireland and I have been very fortunate to have some amazing friends around and they are all backing me up and I think I have very good support. You know to get to the bottom of the truth and yes, I am optimistic.”

Miriam: “Do you feel anger or has that turned into just a determination to seek the truth? Which is your stronger emotion?”

Praveen: “I think I’m very determined and focused. Nothing can change my mind, you know, no matter if the HSE publish the report without our consent or it’s just a…that doesn’t bother me. But, it was shocking but, as I said, I’m pretty focused and determined.”

Miriam: “And what would you say to those people who might suggest that it was all a terrible, unfortunate accident, that nobody say, in the medical world, goes in to deprive a beautiful young woman, who’s pregnant of her life, but it happened and they’re incredibly sorry and they’re seeking forgiveness but they want to now leave it well alone.

Praveen: “Well, you know, it has happened.So it can happen again.There will be people dying. It would not get the publicity or limelight that, you know, we got. So I’m really concerned, you know…basically the whole family don’t want any woman to go through what Savita went through so that’s been our motive at the minute.”

Miriam: “Do people in India think very badly of Ireland? It was a massive story there.”

Praveen: “Yes, it was. They’ve been following very closely, you know, every news was about this particular incident and of course for someone seeing from outside, it does change the perspective…many family friends and friends who came to me, see me, you know, did say, you know, a few negative things about Ireland but that doesn’t change, you know. Because we know what Ireland is like, you know, I live her. And the family has been here for holidays and we know, you know, what the truth is.”

Miriam: “You’ve said before that you and Savita loved Ireland. Do you still love Ireland?”

Praveen: “Of course, I mean as a family, we decide you know to do everything that Savita would have loved and we do, and follow, you know, to keep Savita happy.”

Miriam: “How do you fill your time apart from work, do you find pleasure in anything at the moment?”

Praveen: “Yeah, I mean, just…I do meditate and I pray and basically, as I said, going back home is never easy, and I do keep myself busy, basically to get some sleep, I do some running and outdoor sports at the minute. Yeah, and basically, most of the time I spend is at work.”

Miriam: “Do you find Irish people, overall, in general, are very kind to you?”

Praveen: “Yes, very, very, kind.”

Miriam: “And your friends are still as great as ever.”

Praveen: “Yeah, I mean they’re always there for me and they’re being amazing.”

Miriam: “The anniversary will be coming up in October. Will you go back home for that? Have you thought ahead for that?”

Praveen: “Yeah, I mean, at the minute, yes but things might change, you know, based on the legal proceedings.”

Miriam: “I noticed when I read the interview with Savita’s parents, she’s buried back near her parents.”

Praveen: “That’s right.”

Miriam: “Did you want that? Did you want her to be buried back at home?”

Praveen: “Yes, of course, that’s where she belongs to and that’s basically the family decision, you know. Eventually I would be, you know, going back.”

Miriam: “In your religion, Praveen, do you believe you will see Savita again?”

Praveen: “Yes, we very well believe in that faith.”

Miriam: “OK, Praveen I wish you the very, very best for the future. Thank you for talking to me.”

Praveen: “Thank you.”

Listen to full interview here

Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

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