Symp­toms taken for a stom­ach dis­or­der

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - FRONT PAGE -

A BABY less than a year old died in his cot, prob­a­bly be­cause his menin­gi­tis was not di­ag­nosed, an inquest heard last week.

Samuel Smith, of Newen­den Close, Ash­ford was found dead at home by his par­ents on Septem­ber 23 last year.

He had been ill for about six weeks, and had been in hospi­tal with what doc­tors be­lieved was gas­tro-en­teri­tis.

Dr Irene Sche­im­berg, from the Royal Lon­don Hospi­tal, who car­ried out the post-mortem, said Samuel prob­a­bly died of a blood dis­or­der caused by re­cent menin­gi­tis.

Samuel’s par­ents, Matthew and Pauline Smith, had taken him to the William Har­vey Hospi­tal in Ash­ford at the end of Au­gust, and he was trans­ferred to the Queen El­iz­a­beth the Queen Mother Hospi­tal (QEQM) in Mar­gate the same day.

The staff at the William Har­vey said Samuel might have menin­gi­tis, and sug­gested a brain scan be­cause his head was swollen.

But af­ter a night at the QEQM, he seemed to be get­ting bet­ter on a course of in­tra­venous an­tibi­otics, and when blood tests did not show menin­gi­tis, doc­tors al­lowed him to go home with­out a scan.

On Septem­ber 13, Samuel saw his GP, An­thony Onuchukwu, who did not see any need to send him back to hospi­tal.

Rapid process

Dr Sche­im­berg said the cause of death was dis­sem­i­nated in­travas­cu­lar co­ag­u­la­tion (DIC), a very rapid process where the blood co­ag­u­lates, or clots, through­out the body.

She said this was likely to have been caused by re­cent non-acute menin­gi­tis. How­ever, she could not dis­cover what had caused the menin­gi­tis.

She said: “I don’t think we will ever know what was the cause of the orig­i­nal menin­gi­tis, whether it was vi­ral or bac­te­rial.

“The dif­fi­culty of this case is that acute phase of the menin­gi­tis had sim­ply come and gone.”

She added that it would have been very dif­fi­cult for doc­tors to di­ag­nose the dis­ease if the nor­mal symp­toms, in par­tic­u­lar a rash, were not pre­sent­ing them­selves.

The di­ag­no­sis was com­pli­cated fur­ther by the fact that Samuel suf­fered from birth from a harm­less mus­cu­lar con­di­tion called tor­ti­col­lis, which causes young chil­dren to twist their necks back – also a sign of menin­gi­tis.

The baby’s fa­ther told the inquest: “When he was healthy, he was a lovely lit­tle boy. He was a chubby lit­tle baby, and then all of a sud­den he started to lose weight.

“We took him to hospi­tal, and he just didn’t look like my lit­tle boy any more. His ribs were show­ing.”

Coro­ner Rachel Red­man recorded a ver­dict of death by nat­u­ral causes.

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