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Child to be awarded significant compensation after hospital failures cause brain damage from pneumococcal meningitis
Five-year-old Maisie suffered devastating and life-changing brain damage after multiple opportunities to treat a serious infection were missed and she went on to develop pneumococcal meningitis. Nicola Wainwright, a partner specialising in medical negligence based out of JMW’s London office, took on Maisie’s fight for justice. After obtaining an admission of negligence from the hospital trust, Nicola is now negotiating a significant compensation settlement to provide the lifelong care and support Maisie will require.
Start of ordeal
In the first months of her life, Maisie had received all the usual childhood immunisations and grew into a generally happy and healthy toddler. However, when she was 16-months-old she became severely unwell with an infection.
Maisie’s parents first realised something was wrong when she woke in the early hours of the morning with a high temperature and a cough. After giving Maisie Calpol, they were concerned when her temperature did not come down and so drove her to an out-of-hours GP service to be checked over. The GP who examined Maisie thought she had a chest infection and prescribed antibiotics while also advising that her parents should seek further medical help if she became any worse.
Over the next couple of days Maisie remained unwell. Her temperature was up and down, she slept a lot and was clingy but she did not appear any worse than she had been to see the out of hours GP. However all that changed when she started vomiting and when her temperature shot up to its highest level her parents called NHS 111 who advised Maisie needed to be seen by a doctor. As the family’s GP practice would be closed that afternoon, Maisie’s parents drive her straight to their nearest hospital A&E department.
In the A&E department, Maisie was hot to the touch, very irritable and had to be woken to be examined. Maisie had been in A&E for around three hours before she was seen by a paediatrician and a decision was made to admit her to the day unit. Starting Maisie on antibiotics was mentioned but she was then handed over to a doctor taking over the evening shift with no clear plan in place. Bloods were taken and it was decided to wait for the results before considering providing antibiotics.
At around 8pm that night, Maisie’s parents were told the blood tests had revealed she was suffering from a bacterial infection and she would need to stay in hospital to have intravenous antibiotics. However at some point during the evening, the plan changed and the team taking over the night shift decided Maisie was suffering from a virus and discharged her home. Maisie’s parents were concerned about, and enquired about, the risk of meningitis and the dangers of just taking Maisie home. However they were reassured this was fine.
The following day Maisie slept a lot and was not interested in playing. At 11pm that night her temperature shot up again and her parents contacted the paediatric ward at the hospital. They were advised to give Maisie paracetamol and ibuprofen and call back if necessary. They did call back, but were then told that the 24 hour period in which they could have direct access to the paediatric team had expired but that if they really thought it was necessary they could get help from A&E. Maisie’s parents got the impression that the hospital staff were not concerned and that they were being over anxious so decided against taking Maisie out of bed to hospital.
The following morning Maisie’s parents had to go into her room to wake her and found her lying with her eyes open and with a temperature. When they picked her up to take her out of her cot she started twitching so they called NHS 111 and an ambulance was sent. Maisie was taken back to the same hospital A&E department
The family was left in A&E for several hours before a doctor came to arrange blood tests and a chest X-Ray. It was later that afternoon before the blood tests were taken and it was at this point that it was noticed that one of Maisie’s pupils was larger than the other and that she was squinting. A CT scan was urgently requested as meningitis was suspected. This was later confirmed and Maisie was finally started on intravenous antibiotics. However, tragically it was now too late to prevent her from suffering permanent brain damage
Meningitis compensation to be awarded
Maisie is still very young but is likely to have some life-long physical and cognitive impairments due to the brain damage she sustained. This could significantly impact her future in terms of her education, her ability to self-care and participate in activities and potentially her ability to work and become an independent adult.
Her parents were completely devastated that this could have happened when she had been taken to hospital twice and they had sked about meningitis and could have received much earlier treatment. They were put in touch with Nicola Wainwright, a partner specialising in catastrophic injury cases, who took on their case. Nicola’s investigation confirmed that a catalogue of errors had been made over the course of Maisie’s two hospital attendances that caused her urgently-needed treatment to be severely delayed.
The hospital trust later made a full admission of negligence and Nicola is now negotiating a significant compensation settlement to ensure Maisie has access to the right care and support to enable her to cope with her disabilities. This may include specialist housing, equipment and therapy.