Inquiry Told Of Hospital Failure In E.coli Diagnosis

A YOUNG girl was sent home from a South Wales hospital at the start of the E.coli outbreak despite suffering from the potentially lethal infection.

The girl, now 11, was eventually airlifted to a specialist children’s hospital in England with acute kidney failure after eating E.coli-infected meat at Maes-y-Coed Primary School, in Pontypridd.

She spent four-and-a-half weeks at that hospital and needed six blood transfusions. After recovering from the initial symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) – a serious complication of E.coli O157 – her mother said she did not eat for six weeks and wouldn’t talk because she was scared of being violently sick.

Details of the girl’s illness – she was one of the first children to become sick – were heard today at the E.coli public inquiry. She was identified only as case four and none of the hospitals where she was treated were named.

The girl ate school meals at Maes-y-Coed Primary School, for four days after starting the new school term on September 6, 2005. That weekend the girl, who was nine at the time, developed diarrhoea.

Her mother, who has also not been named, said her daughter became progressively sicker over the weekend. “I was starting to panic on Monday night because she was so ill,” she said.

The family’s local GP said the girl had a stomach bug. But when her mother again called the surgery later on September 13, her daughter was admitted straight to a nearby district general hospital

She remained in hospital for five days, during which time she was given antibiotics – her medical notes said she had gastroenteritis – and she was discharged on September 17, the day after the E.coli outbreak was officially declared.

The inquiry has previously been told that antibiotics are not recommended in the treatment of E.coli O157 because they can increase the risk of HUS.

Consultant S, a consultant paediatrician, who has reviewed the girl’s medical notes, said, “At the time of [the girl’s] initial presentation, the E.coli O157 outbreak had not been reported to the paediatric team and there was therefore no specific indication to mention it when she was admitted.

“During this first admission she had been reviewed by four consultant paediatricians and a surgical team. At the time, all the consultant paediatricians felt she had gastroenteritis, which was improving.

“Her symptoms improved as time passed by. The stool samples had not identified any specific organism and E.coli O157 was included in the test.”

Her mother said, in her statement, “When she was released a nurse was pushing her in a wheelchair and she said, ‘I can’t understand why they are letting her go home, this child looks terrible’.

“When we got to the house she started hallucinating and said she could see a man in black behind the television, and then she said it was behind me.

“I could see the terror in her face and she definitely thought it was real. She was screaming for 20 minutes and was scaring me.”

By September 19, the girl’s condition started to deteriorate again. Her mother said, “I was surprised as I thought it was over. She looked very pale, she was weak and began vomiting again. She had diarrhoea again and it was bloody.”

The family called 999 for an ambulance when the girl started to lose consciousness. When she arrived at her local district general hospital, where she had previously been treated, there were seven or eight other confirmed cases of E.coli O157.

Further tests revealed that the girl was in acute renal failure, her kidneys had stopped working and her red blood cells were being destroyed – she was airlifted to a specialist children’s hospital on September 20.

Her mother said, “When the nurse and I were taking her to the helicopter, she started hallucinating again and said, ‘He’s back’. She was talking about the man in black.”

Girl four was eventually confirmed E.coli O157 positive on September 23. She was on dialysis for 23 days while at the specialist hospital.

Her mother said, “I was informed by medical staff that her kidneys suffered quite severely at the time of the E.coli infection and she will never have the same kidneys again.

“Her behaviour has become much more demanding and challenging since her illness.”