'Wake up, wake up. What did they do to you?": Mother speaks after hospital mix-up kills newborn.

A devastated mother who lost her newborn son after he was given a dose of nitrous oxide gas instead of oxygen at Bankstown-­Lidcombe Hospital has spoken out.

Sonya Ghanem went into labor on Wednesday July 13, and was taken by husband Youssef to Bankstown-­Lidcombe Hospital – the same facility where she had given birth to her three other children safely.

“I held my baby; they [brought] him to me at the hospital,” Mrs Ghanem, told Channel Nine.

“I said, ‘I want to see him.’ Just looking at him, shaking. ‘My son, wake up,’ I would tell him. ‘Wake up, wake up. What did they do to you?’ ”

Sonya’s waters had broken but upon arrival at the hospital at 2.30am she was told there were no beds.  The waiting time and the chaos at the hospital was unlike anything the parents had seen before.

Eight hours later, doctors determined Sonya needed an emergency caesarian and she was rushed into theatre, where she delivered a healthy baby boy.

Sonya Ghanem and her husband Youssef. Image via Facebook.

“A well-known hospital, everyone knows this hospital. All the antenatal checks were fine, heartbeat, everything was fine. Tick, tick, tick." The mum told The Australian.

Shortly after, the tiny boy was administered what doctors said was oxygen.

The little boy had been given what was thought to be oxygen after his birth – a common procedure in c-section births.

He had only lived 57 minutes before he was pronounced dead.

Her eldest daughter Chantal told The Australian “They didn’t say why it was rushed, all rushed. We were waiting and waiting and waiting … then we just find out, you know, gone. The baby’s gone.”

Sonya, who was under a general anaesthetic while the c-section was performed, woke to the news no mother could comprehend, her baby was gone.


The boy was buried last Thursday. He would have been two weeks old tomorrow.

When they buried their son Sonya and Youssef were unaware a mistake in the theatre lead to his death. It wasn’t until Saturday, when they were called in to the hospital, and told the "devastating error".


A second baby at the hospital experienced an unexplained deterioration - left with brain damage and severe impairment. Doctors would later find they repeated the same error which had killed Sonya and Youssef's son.

Both children were wrongly administered nitrous oxide, dispensed through an oxygen outlet.


Sonya Ghanem and her husband Youssef with their third child. Image via Facebook.

The oxygen outlet in one of the hospital's theatres had been was incorrectly installed and certified by an external company,  BOC Limited a year ago - in July 2015.

The gases that were mixed up - oxygen and nitrous oxide - are both colourless and odourless gases. While BOC oxygen gas tanks are black, BOC tanks containing nitrous oxide are light blue.

“We just got a call saying, ‘we need to talk to you as soon as possible’,” Chantal told The Australian about an infuriating, heartbreaking call from the hospital. “There’s some new information about the care your baby was given.”

“They said ‘it’s basically our fault’. I lost it when they said that. I just wanted to kill them.”

The Australian reports that the hour-long meeting was tense increasing the family’s anger.

I am just so angry that an innocent life is gone due to something that should have never happened,” she said. “I just don’t understand how this gas was administered to my brother and why regular checks hadn’t been done when this was installed last year.”


NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said in a statement:

"I deeply regret these families have suffered through such a devastating error. NSW Health will do all it can to support them."

The second baby is currently on life support.

The Health Minister assured other families that all eight operating theatres have now been checked and no other outlets were found to be faulty.

Ms Skinner said that the outlet responsible has been fixed, but the theatre remains closed.

Other hospitals throughout NSW are now checking their theatres to ensure that their tanks have been fitted correctly.

Nitrous Oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas is an anesthetic gas commonly used during surgery and as a pain relief method during labor.

Fairfax Media reports that South Western Sydney Local Health District is conducting a formal investigation to determine if Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital staff followed protocols which may have detected the installation error last year.

In the light of the tragedy 15 Local Health Districts and two specialty networks have urgently reviewed their protocols for ensuring medical gas outlets are correctly installed and every medical gas outlet installed in a NSW Health facility is being checked to ensure the correct gas is being emitted.

For the Sonya and her family and for the other baby, critically ill in another NSW hospital the fall out just begins as they struggle to put their lives back together and come to terms with this disastrous mix-up.