Symptoms taken for a stomach disorder
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.
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.