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Woman who lost embryos in SA blackout tells of anguish as wind farm legal action launched

By Simon Royal, Thursday August 8, 2019 - 09:42 EST
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Jo Posgate was "blessed" with two sons through IVF and had hoped for another child. - ABC

September 28, 2016, is a date Jo Posgate will never forget — the day a catastrophic power system failure plunged South Australia into darkness.

Some people lost tens of thousands of dollars as authorities struggled to restore power to homes and businesses across the state.

But Ms Posgate lost something far more precious than money — .

"I lost future sons and daughters … you can't replace that," she said.

"We had the hope that we could have another child, and that's what we lost that day.

"I would have loved to have had a little girl."

The Australian Energy Regulator , alleging they failed to comply with performance requirements to ride through major disruptions and disturbances, and breached the National Electricity Rules.

Compensation 'not even close' to what kids worth

At the time of the blackout, Ms Posgate, a 47-year-old IT consultant, had been undergoing IVF treatment at Flinders Fertility — a private company based in the public Flinders Medical Centre.

She had 12 embryos at the facility.

Embryos need to remain at a constant temperature to remain viable.

When the mains supply went down, the hospital's backup generator should have kicked in — it didn't.

Subsequent investigations , after routine testing a few days before the blackout.

In all, 50 embryos, belonging to 12 families, including Ms Posgate's, were lost.

She said SA Health had recently settled claims with the families.

"We all got paid out $20,000 each earlier this year," she said.

"If you are talking [about] a part of your family and someone says 'I'm going to give you $20,000', I don't know [about] other people but to me that's not even close to what my kids are worth."

Wish for girl will never come true

Three years after the blackout, Ms Posgate has mixed feelings over moves by the Australian Energy Regulator to take four wind-farm operators to court over compliance issues.

"It's bittersweet," she said.

"It's important if it helps prevent it from happening again … but it doesn't come close to healing our hearts.

"It appears as though there's money there to sort out compliance, but there wasn't money there or somebody ready to go in for the families and back us to find out what happened to our kids … that's why I say it's bittersweet."

At the heart of any grief, there is always the terrible, unanswerable question of what might have been.

In Ms Posgate's case, it was the chance to have a daughter.

But among the 12 Flinders Fertility families, she still counts herself as one of the luckier ones.

"Some people lost everything," she said.

"There was a lady whose husband got sick and they had one embryo left … and there was no chance of them going back to try again, and they lost that one chance of having a biological family.

"There was another woman who was going through IVF without her family's support … and she had to go through that whole process of losing her embryos all by herself."

"I'd had my son Joel through IVF before the blackout and then in 2017 … after losing the embryos I went through the process again.

"On my second IVF transfer, I had my son Daniel and the chances of that happening, it's just a miracle … but I am so blessed, I'm blessed that I have two children.

"But I still wonder about that little girl."

Bad memories when power goes out

Significant changes in both infrastructure and operations have occurred in the South Australian power grid since 2016, and Flinders Fertility has moved to a new site in Glenelg.

Ms Posgate is now living in Darwin.

But no matter where she is, and no matter what the reason, if the power goes out, the sad memories come in.

"I get a bit anxious. I know it's funny, but my first thought is, I hope this is not going to happen to anybody else," she said.

"I hope all the checks are done, I hope they've learnt from it.

"I hope this is not going to happen to any other family ever again.

"I think 'please Lord, don't let this happen to anyone else' — nothing fills your heart like having children."


© ABC 2019

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