From Mother of Lillie,Jackson,Willsher
Dear Hamad Hospital
I wanted to pass on my experience at Hamad Hospital on the 28th May because of the Villagio fire.
When my husband phoned me telling me there was a fire at Villagio and I should go and pick our children up I had no idea it would be the worst day of our lives and was the end of their short ones. When I ran to Villagio from Hyatt Plaza I was stopped at the mall entrance 2 by a man named Ali in a white Toyota Prado who identified himself as being from the Hamad Ambulance service. He tried to find out what was happening over his radio and cellphone but even after 11.30am no one could say where the children were, and seemed to have no idea there was a nursery there at all. He told me the fire was out, it was no big deal as if it was he wouldn't just be out there sitting in his car. My husband phoned me after 12.45 to come to gate 4 by the food court entrance as he could see them bringing children out. Some, including our beautiful little girl Lillie, in her blue skirt and pink socks were being given CPR. Some were simply covered with sheets. After several minutes and a screaming argument I was allowed to travel in the ambulance with my daughter while my husband waited to try and see if ours sons, Jackson and Willsher had been rescued. The paramedics were yelling that the ambulance was not stocked but were told just to go. They continued to perform chest compressions on Lillie and tried to get air into her however the face mask was too big and kept slipping. Where were the child ones??? I held her hand, rubbed her legs and feet and begged her to stay with us. The paramedics didn't know if she'd been given adrenalin so they gave her one shot, and when she didn't respond followed with another a few minutes later. When we reached the hospital she was rushed into emergency and I was made to wait in the waiting room with a constant stream of hospital staff telling me she would be ok, everything would be ok etc. I was made to wait there for over an hour, as other parents of children started to arrive looking for their babies. I kept asking about Lillie, where was she, was she OK and no one would tell me anything. Again more hospital ladies telling us everything would be ok, you will be fine and other unhelpful platitudes. Well over an hour later, nearly 2 we were told we would be going to the mortuary to identify the children that had been brought in. Despite me arriving with Lillie, and being able to identify her clothing they would not give me any information or let me see her. All I wanted was to hold my baby. How could you not know who she was when I arrived with her??? My husband left Villagio because the emergency crew was packing up and still no one could tell him where our sons were. He arrived just in time for us to be taken to the mortuary with another family where we were supposed to identify the bodies one family at a time. When we got there it was yet more chaos and no one was expecting us. So after standing in a corridor for 5 minutes we were then put into a storage cupboard that had been converted into an office, with 3 chairs and no windows. Over the next hour we were progressively squeezed in with other frightened parents and yet more staff telling us everything was fine. The hospital was utter confusion. No one could tell us if any children had been brought in alive. Hospital staff then asked us for photos of our children to try and identify them and we gave our phones to them. We were not allowed to see the children as there were so many. My husband was then taken into the mortuary and had to look at photos of all the dead children. I will never forget him coming back to me and saying "Lillie and Jackson are dead, Winkie (Willsher)isn't there" He was able to able to identify Lillie and Jackson from their photographs but wasn't able to identify Willsher from the picture so asked to see the body of the child he thought could be Winkie. He was told no its a girl that can't be your son. Martin insisted in seeing him and was eventually taken to see the body. He came away confused as the baby was swaddled in hospital sheets, no clothing was visible and what little hair could be seen was brown, and the hospital staff still kept insisting it was a girl. Martin was then shoved out of a back security door of the mortuary, on his own with no idea where he, or anyone else was. He then wandered around with no one able to tell him where the families were. We were moved to the hospital library where hospital staff tried to help us find Winkie. I prayed that he had hidden somewhere and might be ok, and was being treated in emergency. After another hour or more my husband was again taken to identify one last little child. We had described him as a little red haired boy with big beautiful blue eyes. This child had hair darkened by soot and the hospital staff still said they were a girl. It was Willsher, our little boy. All my babies were dead. We pleaded with the hospital to let us see our children and were not allowed and were all told to come back at specific times the next morning. As we had 3 children we were allocated 9.30, 9.45 and 10.00 the next morning. The first family to be allowed to see our children. We returned to the mortuary the next day at 9.25 to see our babies. We were again made to wait over an hour as various officials marched in and out of the mortuary before we were allowed in. Lillie, Jackson and Willsher were swaddled in sheets and though still my beautiful babies were so cold we were unable to hold them. We kissed them goodbye, stroked their hair and cried. Martin then had to wait over an hour, in the mortuary as other parents came to see their children waiting for paperwork for death certificates. Jackson's had been lost so there was yet another delay. My parents, and Martin's brother arrived from New Zealand, and our Nanny returned from her holiday to be with us. We went to the hospital on the 31st for them to see the babies. At this time I asked the mortuary staff about how they would look after a few days as it would take some time to take them home for burial. I was asked if I wanted them embalmed because of the journey. I agreed and requested that they be embalmed to enable our family in New Zealand to be able to say goodbye to them. I was assured this would happen, and phoned the following day to confirm it had been done. Dr Philip texted my husband to confirm this had happened. The New Zealand government received an embalming certificate from the Hamad Medical Corporation, signed by Dr Mohammed H Al Thani as part of the process for flying. When we arrived in New Zealand, and the funeral directors opened the coffins it was obvious that they had not been embalmed. We were not able to have our family, and their brother and sisters see them one last time as they now no longer looked like our sleeping angels. This was the final let down in what was the worst time of our lives.
Questions I need answers to and think you at Hamad need to ask are:
Why was the information between emergency services outside Villagio so inaccurate?
Why was the ambulance not stocked or have face masks the correct size for children?
How was my little girl taken from me supposedly alive, and then sent to the morgue for us to identify by photo when I was right outside the door to her treatment room the whole time.
Who were the multitude of non nursing staff who were unable to offer any practical help and kept saying everything will be OK, stop crying, and pull yourself together my dear when it so obviously wasn't OK?
Why were my babies not embalmed when we were advised multiple times in writing that it had happened? This is a requirement for the export of bodies to many countries.
Is this the only hospital for emergencies for a population of 1.7 million people ?
If this chaos happened with 13 children and 6 adults involved how is Doha going to cope with a bus accident of 40, a plane crash of 200 or an apartment building fire with no way of knowing the number of victims?
I would appreciate hearing back from you on what was learnt on the 28th of May and what measures have been taken to improve as I could not bear for other families to be subjected to this kind of chaos when their hearts have been broken.
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