Girl, five, died of sepsis hours after A&E medics blamed her rash on ‘virus’

Girl, five, died of sepsis hours after A&E medics blamed her rash on ‘virus’

A five-year-old girl died of sepsis hours after being sent home from hospital with a 'typical childhood illness', an inquest heard today. Ava Macfarla

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A five-year-old girl died of sepsis hours after being sent home from hospital with a ‘typical childhood illness’, an inquest heard today.

Ava Macfarlane was taken to an Accident and Emergency department by her worried parents after she was left ‘gasping for breath’ and developed symptoms that included a high temperature, red rash, and extreme lethargy.

After being seen by a doctor and given paracetamol and ibuprofen the youngster was discharged – with her mum told she was suffering from a ‘virus that’s going around’.

But after returning home Ava’s condition worsened and her parents were forced to take her back to hospital. She continued to deteriorate and despite treatment, died in the early hours of the following morning.

Ava Macfarlane was taken to an Accident and Emergency department by her worried parents after she was left 'gasping for breath' and developed symptoms that included a high temperature, red rash, and extreme lethargy

Ava Macfarlane was taken to an Accident and Emergency department by her worried parents after she was left 'gasping for breath' and developed symptoms that included a high temperature, red rash, and extreme lethargy

Ava Macfarlane was taken to an Accident and Emergency department by her worried parents after she was left ‘gasping for breath’ and developed symptoms that included a high temperature, red rash, and extreme lethargy

A jury inquest into Ava’s death at Nottingham Coroner’s Court heard she died of sepsis – the body’s overwhelming response to infection – after contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).

TSS – a bacterial infection that releases harmful toxins into the bloodstream and can cause multi-organ failure – became well-known in the late 1970s and early 1980s when it was found many women who developed it had used certain brands of super-absorbent tampons.

Ava’s mum, Lesley Gearing, told the hearing her daughter, who was born with Down’s Syndrome, had been poorly for around a week before her death.

However, after she developed a rash across her trunk that ‘looked like she had a T-shirt on’, began struggling to breathe and her eyes started rolling, Miss Gearing and Ava’s dad, Adam MacFarlane, decided to drive her to hospital at around lunchtime on December 13, 2017.

They were placed in a cubicle at Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre and a nurse took Ava's observations before she was seen by a consultant

They were placed in a cubicle at Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre and a nurse took Ava's observations before she was seen by a consultant

They were placed in a cubicle at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre and a nurse took Ava’s observations before she was seen by a consultant

They were placed in a cubicle at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre and a nurse took Ava’s observations before she was seen by a consultant.

Miss Gearing, an NHS finance worker, said: ‘It was like we were hurting her when we were touching her. I laid her back on the bed and she went back to sleep again.

‘I gave her calpol but had to give it her like she was a baby. She couldn’t hold her head up.

‘Ava was given ibuprofen and we were told they would check her again to see if her temperature had come down.’

Miss Gearing added a different doctor then saw Ava, but didn’t examine her or take a history of her illness.

She said he explained that if she ‘got any worse then to bring her back’.

But Miss Gearing added she wasn’t given any advice what symptoms to look out for, or warned about the possibility of sepsis.

Asked by coroner Laurinda Bower what diagnosis she was given for Ava, Miss Gearing replied: ‘Virus. They said there was a virus going around.’

A jury inquest into Ava's death at Nottingham Coroner's Court heard she died of sepsis - the body's overwhelming response to infection - after contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

A jury inquest into Ava's death at Nottingham Coroner's Court heard she died of sepsis - the body's overwhelming response to infection - after contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

A jury inquest into Ava’s death at Nottingham Coroner’s Court heard she died of sepsis – the body’s overwhelming response to infection – after contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

She told the jury she thought she and Mr MacFarlane had been given the ‘best possible advice’ when told to take their daughter home, adding: ‘We were stood in A&E with people telling us what the right outcome would be.’

But that night Ava worsened, developing diarrhoea. Miss Gearing said her trunk also became ‘hotter and hotter’, and her hands and feet were ‘freezing’.

By the next morning Ava was ‘crying every time’ she was touched and soiling herself whenever she was moved, so her parents took her back to the hospital.

They were placed in a cubicle again and noticed their daughter’s legs had gone mottled and grey.

Miss Gearing said: ‘We were told it was dehydration. She was really lethargic and her eyes kept rolling.

‘They were giving her continuous fluids but the veins kept popping. There was no reaction when they put the needles in.’

The inquest heard the family was kept in the cubicle and told a bed was being found for Ava in the children’s intensive care unit.

Miss Gearing said a female doctor eventually opened the curtain and said Ava was a ‘very poorly child who should be upstairs’.

She added: ‘I heard her mention sepsis. I have heard a lot about it and my first thought was “we’ve got it in time”.’

Ava was moved to a bed, placed in an induced coma, and given antibiotics but her condition continued to deteriorate and she died in the early hours of December 15.

Miss Gearing said: ‘Ava decided she had had enough. Her heart just stopped.’

She claimed she only discovered her daughter’s cause of death when she read it in a coroner’s report.

In opening the inquest to the jury, Ms Bower said: ‘Doctors thought it was a typical childhood illness and she was discharged with advice given to observe her.’

The hearing, which is expected to last two days, continues.

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