Fri. Feb 3rd, 2023


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New mum, baby die four days apart: Husband gains residency

4 min read

A man who lost his wife soon after childbirth and their newborn baby has gained permanent New Zealand residency.

Last month the Herald revealed Charitha Meepegama was applying for an independent work and resident visa to be near his family.He was told by his lawyer it could take up to six months.

“Oh, I am really happy, now I can stay here and look after my wife and baby – it’s the best Christmas present ever,” Meepegama said.

In June Nilakshani (Nishi) Silva, Meepegama’s wife, had an emergency C-section in an ambulance and later died.

The couple’s daughter, Eliana, was rushed to Auckland Hospital but her grieving father made the agonising decision to switch off life support four days later.

Before Silva died, the couple was seeking a dual residents visa.

“Nishi had beautiful long hair, she was sweet, open, and trustworthy.”

Silva, 34, was an accounts administrator for a sheet metal company and a gas fitting company, her husband an IT technician at Computer Recycling.

Every day Meepegama, 34, lives with the enormity of his loss.

Every day he visits the Purewa cemetery where his wife and baby are buried together.

He has planted a garden full of roses on their grave. They were Silva’s favourite.

Meepegama’s boss Patrick Moynahan, the managing director at Computer Recycling, described him as a fantastic worker and well-liked.

“We support Charitha obtaining those visas, he is a hard worker, has initiative, and arrives to work on time. Nishi’s death has had a huge impact on Charitha. On the fifth day of every month, he is highly emotional. His grief comes in waves,” Moynahan said.

Immigration lawyer Ramya Sathiyanathan previously told the Herald: “Charitha is an ideal candidate to obtain one on compassionate grounds. He has support from his employer and frankly doesn’t have much to go back to in Sri Lanka.”

The night before Silva died the couple chatted about their baby and who she would take after.

“We were excited to have our own little family and saved hard to buy a cot, a pram, baby clothes – all good-quality stuff. We were so happy. That was the last conversation we had.”

The pair went to bed but around midnight Meepegama heard Silva making “gurgling” noises and struggling to breathe. He rang 111 then phoned Silva’s midwife. But she didn’t respond.

The ambulance arrived five minutes after the call at 12.30am as Silva’s health deteriorated. Paramedics rushed her to Auckland Hospital by ambulance but they didn’t get far. A paramedic, guided by a senior supervisor on the phone, performed a perimortem C-section in the ambulance, and Eliana was born.

A perimortem C-section is done when a mother is in cardiac arrest.

Meepegama said his wife was fit and healthy and had no problems during her pregnancy.

“In the ambulance, they were saying her heart was working and then it stopped, that’s why they had to deliver the baby then and there.

“I feel sad I wasn’t with Nishi when she died, I was so upset I couldn’t think. When I saw Eliana, my heart melted, she was beautiful like her mother.

“The doctor said her brain was damaged and was deprived of oxygen when her mother’s heart stopped. The doctor told me there was no point keeping her alive by a machine because her heart and brain weren’t functioning.

“She had all these tubes everywhere and couldn’t breathe on her own so I thought it best she be with her mum.”

Concerned about Silva’s care, Meepegama later met Dr Tony Smith, from St John ambulance, and Dr Jenny McDougall, a clinical director at Auckland Hospital.

A draft report from Auckland Hospital supplied to the Herald confirmed: “Nishi suffered a massive pulmonary embolus and died in the Emergency Department at Auckland City Hospital on June 5 after prolonged resuscitation efforts by the St John paramedics and the ED team. Her baby Eliana was born by resuscitative caesarean section in the field and passed away four days later.”

Dr Mike Shepherd, Auckland Hospital’s director of provider services, said he could not comment on the details of individual patient care for ethical and privacy reasons.

“There is always a small risk of complications with pregnancy and we understand how difficult it can be for families when complications do occur.

“While we don’t want to pre-empt the findings of an ongoing investigation, our initial review found that appropriate clinical guidelines were followed in the care of Nilakshani and baby Eliana.

“The cases are currently with the coroner so we’re unable to provide further comment at this time.”

Meepegama said most days are tough and he missed his family terribly.

“We were married for 11 years and did everything together, now it’s just me. I have lost everything.”

He doesn’t want to go back to Sri Lanka. He doesn’t want to be apart from his family. It’s his wife’s birthday tomorrow and his first Christmas alone.

“I get so sad sometimes but I know my wife is with me wherever I go. The hardest thing is not being able to hold Eliana. It’s also hard looking at photos. We waited 10 years for her to come to us. It’s hard not to cry.”

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