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'We can’t accept her death': Family of girl who died a year ago after surgeries still seeking answers

The family of a child who died of complications following surgery for spina bifida and scoliosis has said “not a single person in government has contacted us”.

Michael and Bridget Carter were speaking as they marked the one-year anniversary of their daughter Dollceanna’s death.

About 200 people from their hometown of Trim, Co Meath, attended a service in the child’s memory at St Patrick’s Church on Friday.

Dozens of the girl’s classmates were also at the Mass dressed in their uniforms.

Dollceanna Carter poses for photos at her Communion. Picture courtesy of Michael Carter 
Dollceanna Carter poses for photos at her Communion. Picture courtesy of Michael Carter 

Ten-year-old Dollceanna Carter underwent eight surgeries in Temple Street Hospital over a four-month period in 2022, before dying on September 29.

Her case is part of an external review of 19 children treated at the hospital for spina bifida and scoliosis.

The HSE has described Dollceanna’s case as a “serious surgical incident”, which is the subject of a Serious Incident Investigation Review.

This week, Health Minster Stephen Donnelly spoke about the spinal surgery controversy, saying the State has “failed” the most medically vulnerable children in Ireland.

Dollceana Carter is the 10-year-old child who died from complications following surgery on her spine. Her one-year anniversary mass is this Friday. Dollceana parents Michael and Bridget Carter, accompanied by family and friends Photo Credit: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie
Dollceana Carter is the 10-year-old child who died from complications following surgery on her spine. Her one-year anniversary mass is this Friday. Dollceana parents Michael and Bridget Carter, accompanied by family and friends Photo Credit: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has offered to meet with advocacy groups.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Dollceanna’s father said: “My child has died, we are walking around with a pain in our hearts and it’s one year today since her death, but it feels like it happened today, and nobody has been in touch with us.

“The minister for health and the Taoiseach want to meet different groups and we care about all of the children in this, we never want to see this ever happen again.

But one death is too much, and that one death was our daughter, and nobody high up in government like the minister has talked to us about anything. We want to know what happened to her."

Following the anniversary Mass, the family walked with friends and neighbours to Dollceanna’s grave in St Loman’s cemetery for a memorial service.

Country singer-songwriter John Hogan performed a number of songs by the child's grave, including 'Forever After'.

Dollceana Carter is the 10-year-old child who died from complications following surgery on her spine. Her one-year anniversary mass is this Friday. Photo Credit: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie
Dollceana Carter is the 10-year-old child who died from complications following surgery on her spine. Her one-year anniversary mass is this Friday. Photo Credit: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie

Rows of free-standing boxed bouquets of pink and white roses were placed on the grave and a large banner carrying a letter written to Dollceanna by her family was temporarily erected in the cemetery.

It reads: “Dollceanna you were just so perfect in every way. Your heart went out to people even though you were in a wheelchair. You didn’t let it affect you, you just got on with life and lived for the moment."

The child is buried beside her 11-month-old sister Santana Carter, who suffered from a developmental disorder and spina bifida.

“We were prepared for Santana’s death,” said Mr Carter “We were accepting of it. But we can’t accept Dollceanna’s death. 

“We need answers, why did this happen and how did this happen, nobody is going through what we are going through.

There was nothing wrong with her, apart from she could not walk.

“We are hearing about unlicensed screws used in children and we don’t know what children they were used on. They are saying three children, but how can we be sure? How do we know if Dollceanna is not one of those children?"