Auckland maternity death: Family still waiting to say goodbye to mum who died with baby three days after birth

Emerald Tai’s ashes still sit in her mother’s West Auckland living room and as the global pandemic rages on, that is where she will stay until her grandmother can get to New Zealand to say goodbye.

Tai and her 3-day-old son Tanatui died at their home in West Auckland on March 16 last year.

Tai died from sepsis, resulting from an infection she contracted after giving birth.

The baby, named after his father, also had sepsis but “unsafe sleeping” contributed to his death.

Her six surviving children and wider family are still struggling to accept her death and miss her desperately.

To compound that, they have not been able to lay her to rest because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

“My mum and family are all in Perth and the Gold Coast,” said Tai’s mother Susan Fa’amoe.

“My mum wants to come and say goodbye to Emerald but she can’t.

“It’s really hard.”

Tai’s extended family could not come to New Zealand for her funeral but hoped to get here for her burial.

Those plans are on hold until they can travel again.

“She died so young, it’s really sad,” said Fa’amoe.

She said Tai was missed “so dearly” and not a day went by that she did not think of her daughter and baby grandson – whom she never met.

She only saw him in his coffin with his mother.

In a post soon after losing the pair Fa’amoe said: “No mother should ever bury their child. Words can’t describe the grief and sadness we are going through.”

The lockdown and earlier level 3 lockdowns in Auckland have meant Fa’amoe does not get to see her grandchildren as often as she would like.

But she speaks with them as often as she can and supports their father as best she can.

“They lost their mum and they are really missing her,” she said.

“They are doing okay, they are doing well.All of them still talk about her a lot.”

Samuels is not ready to speak about the death of his “soul mate” and “sweetheart”.

But he recently told the Herald it was hard raising the children alone and he desperately missed Tai, whom he had been in a relationship with since high school.

Almost $19,000 was donated to the family to help support Tai’s surviving children.

The funds were raised through Givealittle but the money is yet to be used.

Fa’amoe said the plan was to use every cent to provide for the six children and provide them with new clothes, school supplies and essentials.

But the family were still working through how best to use the money and had not yet withdrawn it from Givealittle as they made those decisions.

Fa’amoe thanked everyone for their generosity and assured that whenever the money was accessed it would be used for what the children needed.

“It has been hard to organise the right bank account and work out who will be in charge of the money but I still want to use it for what the kids need – for their education and that kind of thing,” she said.

The Auckland District Health Board launched an investigation into Tai’s care and conceded a number of gaps in the system enabled the new mum to self-discharge with “early indications” of an infection to an address not listed with health-care providers.

Details of her case were not passed to the community midwife so when she could not contact the new mum there was no reason for concern when perhaps there should have been.

The ADHB says it is “deeply sorry” for its handling of the patient and has vowed to do better for all women in future.

As a result of the investigation they implemented a raft of changes to maternity care in a bid to prevent future deaths.


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