Mum and baby who died suddenly in West Auckland had undiagnosed infection

Emerald Tai and her three-day-old son Tanatui Samuels died in March.


Emerald Tai and her three-day-old son Tanatui Samuels died in March.

An Auckland mother and newborn baby who died days after being discharged from hospital had a serious, undiagnosed infection.

Emerald Waiari Tai, 27, and her three-day-old baby Tanatui Samuels, died suddenly at their home in the West Auckland suburb of Kelston in March.

Tai left behind six children, aged from 1 to 12.

She gave birth to Tanatui in Auckland City Hospital and was discharged the next morning, despite a pain in her stomach.

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Tai’s mother Susan Faamoe said her daughter was in so much pain that she had to be carried to the car.

Preliminary results from the coroner released to the family revealed both mother and son had developed sepsis, commonly known as blood poisoning, believed to be caused by an infection.

Faamoe said Tai died from puerperal sepsis and Tanatui from sepsis and “unsafe sleep”.

Faamoe told Stuff she wanted justice for her daughter and her grandchildren.

“I think they deserve something for what’s happened to them, what they’ve gone through,” she said.

“There’s been a lot of pain and suffering.”

Puerperal sepsis is any bacterial infection of the genital tract which occurs after the birth of a baby, according to the World Health Organisation.

Aside from death, it can cause long-term health problems such as chronic pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.

Symptoms of puerperal sepsis can include fever, chills, lower abdominal pain, a tender uterus and shock.

Women who are anaemic or malnourished are more vulnerable to sepsis.

Emerald Tai gave birth at Auckland City Hospital.

Alden Williams/Stuff

Emerald Tai gave birth at Auckland City Hospital.

A 2017 document from the Canterbury District Health Board said puerperal sepsis accounted for 5 per cent of maternal deaths in New Zealand.

According to the Maternal Morbidity Working Group, sepsis accounted for 15.1 per cent of admissions to a high dependency unit or intensive care unit between September 2017 and 2018.

Both Tai and her son’s deaths remain active before the coroner, but the Auckland District Health Board confirmed in June it was conducting its own investigation.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice confirmed Tai’s family had been provided the preliminary findings by a pathologist, which were the post-mortem results.

Faamoe, who also spoke to Stuff in the days after her daughter’s death, described her second eldest child as a “happy, bubbly person”.

“She was well-loved by people. She was always smiling.”

Tai’s partner, also called Tanatui Samuels, was “broken-hearted” and has been trying to be both mum and dad to the children, she said.

Tai and Tanatui had been together for 16 years and were planning to get married.

Still worried about the futures of Tai’s other children, Faamoe created a Givealittle page to raise funds for them.

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