Polish Couple Holds Second Funeral for Baby After Hospital Mixup

Tragedy struck twice for a Polish couple in Brooklyn. Five months into her pregnancy, Justyna Sliwa found out that the baby’s heart had stopped. Shortly after Sliwa and her husband, Rafal, returned from a trip to Poland to bury him, the New York Medical Examiner’s Office told the couple that they had received the body of the wrong baby — one that shared a similar name, Nowy Dziennik reported. The article, translated below, was written prior to the couple’s second trip to Poland this week to bury their son.

The Sliwas buried their stillborn child in Poland, only to find out it was the wrong body. (Photo via Nowy Dziennik)

Two months after his burial, a Polish family from Brooklyn received the actual body of their son.

Justyna and Rafal Sliwa are going to Poland on Tuesday to bury their child in the town of Lomza. It will be the second funeral for their son. The first one took place on June 26, but — as it later turned out — they buried the wrong child, after his body was erroneously released to them by Bellevue Hospital.

“I’m happy to have my son back, but it’s just horrible what they did to us. It’s like a nightmare that won’t stop,” said Justyna Sliwa, 23, in an interview with the New York Post.

At the same time, the family’s lawyer, the Medical Examiner’s Office, the Mayor’s Office and the Polish Embassy are frantically working on bringing the body of the still unidentified child back from Lomza to the United States. The procedures involved are complicated and time-consuming.

The Polish family blames the city, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, Bellevue Hospital and the Medical Examiners’s Office for the mistake, and has demanded damages of $5 million.

This unfortunate mistake took place in June. Justyna was five months pregnant when an ultrasound indicated that the baby was dead. She went to Bellevue Hospital, where doctors delivered the baby. Following Catholic tradition, the parents wanted to bury the unborn child at the cemetery in the town they came from. They signed all the necessary documents at the hospital, and the baby’s body was transported to Poland. On June 16, they held a memorial service in a Brooklyn church, and three days later, the burial took place in Lomza. On July 6, it turned out the body they said farewell to was not their own child’s.

The Medical Examiner’s Office informed the Sliwas that the tragic and unfortunate mistake was caused by the striking similarity of the last names of the two families who lost their babies. Due to identity protection laws, the other family’s name has not been released.

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