Ipswich: Infection killed baby discharged from hospital

THE death of an 11-month-old baby from meningococcal septicaemia might have been avoided had she not been discharged from hospital before the infection worsened, an inquest heard yesterday.

Ellie Parsons was rushed to casualty by her parents Kirsty Ludlow and Daren Parsons in the early hours of December 14, 2009.

The family arrived at Ipswich Hospital’s accident and emergency unit at 00.23 and expressed fears to medical staff their daughter had meningitis.

The 11-month-old’s body was floppy, shaking and shivering. She was also suffering a high temperature and had five spots on her chest and back.

But at 3.30am on the same day Ludlow and Parsons were told their daughter had a urinary tract infection and were assured it was safe to take her home by attending doctor Emma Traer.

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A few hours later Ellie was covered in a rash and unresponsive. Her parents rushed her back to casualty and after failed attempts to resuscitate her she was pronounced dead at approximately 8.30am.

Speaking at the inquest in Ip-City, Dr Matthew James, consultant paediatrician for Ipswich Hospital, said he believed keeping the child for further observation could have made a difference.

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He said he would not have diagnosed her with a urinary tract infection given the urine test result obtained by Dr Traer and Ellie’s high temperature and heart rate. However, he did concede meningococcal septicaemia could kill a person within an hour if it worsened and admitting Ellie to the hospital’s ward would not have guaranteed her survival.

Witness Dr Craig Sheridan also stated there may have been grounds to keep the baby at the hospital.

Ellie’s temperature and heart rate were monitored for approximately three hours and she was given paracetamol to make her more comfortable.

It was established the administration of this drug could have masked her symptoms and led Dr Traer to the conclusion the child was well enough to leave the hospital.

When asked why she discharged the child, Dr Traer – a trainee doctor with only four months’ casualty experience at the time – said she believed Ellie appeared to be much better and was playing with toys.

Ms Ludlow, of Felixstowe Road, and Mr Parsons deny this, claiming their daughter was still unresponsive at this point.

Recording a narrative verdict, Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean said meningoccocal septicaemia was the cause of death but could not say whether Ellie would have survived if the condition had been diagnosed earlier.

Both Ellie’s family and the NHS agreed everyone had tried their best to save the baby and it could not be determined whether she would definitely have survived if meningoccocal septicaemia, a form of meningitis, had been detected earlier.

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