Girl died of meningococcal infection hours after being sent home from hospital
A coroner heard how a post-mortem examination found that four-year-old Gracie Foster died of Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome.
The mother of a four-year-old girl who died from a meningococcal infection hours after she was sent home from hospital has told a coroner: “I took her away to die.”
Gracie Foster went into Chesterfield Royal Hospital, in Derbyshire, for a routine tonsil removal operation three years ago but the surgery was cancelled when she became unwell on the ward, her mother Michelle Foster told an inquest on Monday.
Miss Foster described how a consultant paediatrician told her Gracie had a viral infection and sent her home.
But, within hours, her daughter became much worse and was taken to Sheffield Children’s Hospital where she died the same day.
Giving evidence at an inquest in Chesterfield, Miss Foster said Gracie seemed well before the planned operation on October 21 2015 and was excited because she was missing school and would be having treats at her grandmother’s after the operation was over.
Once in hospital, Miss Foster said, Gracie seemed happy in the play area of the ward but she then heard a “whinge” noise from her daughter and found her sitting in the middle of the room.
She said Gracie complained of a sore throat and “seemed like she was sedated”.
When she was given pre-medication for her operation, Gracie vomited and a nurse found she had a temperature of 40.1 degrees, Miss Foster said.
She said an anaesthetist then told her that they could no longer do the operation but he did not examine Gracie.
Miss Foster said she then waited 90 minutes with no-one checking Gracie before consultant paediatrician Dr Tim Ubhi arrived.
She said Dr Ubhi looked at Gracie’s tonsils but did not conduct any further examination.
“The doctor said she didn’t need antibiotics – she had a viral infection,” she said.
“She needed paracetamol and ibuprofen.”
Miss Foster said she was told to take her daughter home but she was “flopping” so much she had to carry her out of the hospital.
She said: “In hindsight, I feel really stupid that I trusted him.”
Miss Foster told the coroner: “I thought she must be all right. I took her away to die.”
She told the inquest: “No-one was worried about her apart from me, it seemed.”
Miss Foster said she left Gracie at her mother’s house, still thinking she had a minor virus.
But she later got a call saying her mother was concerned and was taking her to A&E.
Miss Foster said that the next call she got said “she’d crashed” at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
“It was really strange to think that,” she said.
“No way she was that poorly. She’s all right. She’s got a viral infection.”
She said she got the “biggest shock of my life”, when she arrived at the hospital and found Gracie was “covered in tubes, 10 people all round her, absolutely covered in a purple rash”.
She added: “She just didn’t look like her at all.
“I thought ‘how has this happened?’”
The coroner heard how a post-mortem examination found that Gracie died of Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome caused by a meningococcal infection.
She said Gracie had brought a letter home from school three weeks before her death informing parents that a child at the school had meningitis.
Miss Foster, who lives in Old Whittington, near Chesterfield, said she had been concerned for the young boy involved but not worried at all for her daughter as they had little contact.
And she told the coroner that the boy’s condition was nothing like what happened to Gracie.
Before the inquest, Miss Foster said: “Gracie was full of life and a really happy little girl who made everyone smile. She was such an entertainer. There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t try, she was so adventurous.”
The coroner heard how pupils at Lenthall Nursery and Infant School, in Dronfield, had made a card ready for their friend’s return from her operation.
The inquest is due to conclude on Friday.
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