Charitha Meepegama’s wife Nilakshani Silva died during childbirth and their baby girl died four days later. Photo / Supplied
A man who lost his wife soon after childbirth and their newborn baby is hoping to obtain residency in New Zealand.
Charitha Meepegama’s wife Nilakshani (Nishi) Silva had an emergency C-section in an ambulance and died later.
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 were seeking a dual residents visa.
The pair met in Sri Lanka in 2009. It was an instant attraction. They married a year later and came to New Zealand four years ago.
“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.
Five months on, Meepegama, 34, lives with the enormity of what he has lost.
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.
“I want to stay close to my wife and daughter. I spend a lot of time at the cemetery. If I leave this country there will be no one here to care for them,” Meepegama said.
Meepegama’s boss Patrick Moynahan, the managing director at Computer Recycling, described him as a fantastic worker and well-liked.
“We support Charitha obtaining both a work and resident visa because he’s a hard worker, has initiative, and arrives to work on time. I will do everything I can to keep him here,” Moynahan said.
Moynahan said Meepegama is “devastated”.
“On the fifth day of every month, he is highly emotional. His grief comes in waves,” he said.
Immigration lawyer Ramya Sathiyanathan told the Weekend Herald Meepegama is seeking an independent work and resident visa, which could take four to six months.
“We are preparing a special direction visa for Charitha, which will be lodged this month. The minister of immigration can issue a special direction to grant a resident visa.
“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,” Sathiyanathan said.
The night before Nishi 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 met Dr Tony Smith, from St John Ambulance, and Dr Jenny McDougall, a clinical director at Auckland hospital.
A draft report from the 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 Nilashanki 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 has thought about joining his family.
“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.
“I get so sad sometimes I think I want to be them 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. In her scans she was perfect. It’s hard not to cry.”