Distraught family of boy, 4, ‘broken’ after jury finds he died of natural causes

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A family who believes their child could’ve been saved from his sepsis death have said they are “disappointed” with “natural causes” being given as a verdict at his inquest.

Sheldon Farnell, of Sunderland, died of sepsis on the morning of November 26, 2018, just hours after he had been discharged from Sunderland Royal Hospital.

His family claim he was “neglected” by doctors and failed when he wasn’t given antibiotics – something specialists said could’ve stopped his tragic death.

His mum Katrina Keegan, 25, burst into tears following the five-day inquest, where a majority jury of nine concluded her beloved Sheldon had died of “natural causes”.

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust apologised to the family for the shortcomings in the medical treatment and steps had been taken to correct what went wrong in Sheldon’s case.

Following proceedings, Katrina, said: “I’m very disappointed, I didn’t think we would get this outcome.

“I’m just gutted, devastated. It’s been very hard [to relive Sheldon’s final days], I’m broken. The whole family is broken. We’re all devastated.”

Coroner Derek Winter said he was writing to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to raise concerns around antibiotic medication and its administration, and contact information at the point of admission and discharge.

The inquest heard how Sheldon’s mum first took him to A&E three days before his death suffering from headaches, vomiting, a high temperature and feeling lethargic.

He had a full sceptic screening – including a lumbar puncture – but antibiotics were never given to the youngster.

Sheldon’s condition had improved so much that medics sent him home, despite the fact that the definitive blood culture test results had not yet come back.

Experienced paediatrician Dr Geoffrey Lawson described his decision to discharge Sheldon from hospital the day before his death as his “lifelong regret”.

Just minutes after Sheldon’s family left the hospital, Dr Niresha Sirinanda, a senior paediatric trainee at the time, was informed the boy’s final blood culture tests returned a ‘gram positive’ result for Group A streptococcus – a bacteria that can cause sepsis.

Despite numerous attempts to contact the family, they were unsuccessful in getting through, with a statement from Katrina confirming all three numbers on record were not in use.

Sheldon’s condition deteriorated during the night due to being in septic shock but when he was rushed back into hospital in the early hours of Monday morning, nothing could be done to save his life.

During the inquest, the jury heard that Sheldon would have survived had hospital staff administered antibiotics instead of sending him home.

Dr Nelly Ninis, a paediatric consultant, said staff missed four “clear” opportunities to give the youngster intravenous antibiotics – three while he was in a hospital bed.

She told the jury: “Had he (Sheldon) managed to be recalled or had he not left the hospital and received intravenous antibiotics, I think the whole thing would have been stopped dead in its tracks before the onset of septic shock.”

Grandma Nicola Jamieson said: “This little boy, he’s not meant to be dead, he’s meant to be here with us and his mam. And he’s not and he’s been taken away and he’s only four. It’s not fair.”

Dr Paul McAndrew, deputy medical director at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said many lessons have been learned from Sheldon’s tragic death.

He said: “On behalf of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, I would like to once again offer our condolences to Sheldon’s family and apologise unreservedly on behalf of the Trust for the shortcomings in the care Sheldon received.

“There are no words to adequately express the regret we have in the tragic loss of young Sheldon on the morning of Monday 26th November 2018. Everyone involved in Sheldon’s care has been deeply affected by his death.

“The complexity of recognising Sepsis in children is a major challenge. We continue to undertake widespread education of our staff about the recognition and management of Sepsis. We have also made important changes should we ever need to recall any child to hospital in future.

“As recognised by the independent paediatric expert, Dr Ninis, the Trust has taken Sheldon’s death very seriously and there has been comprehensive review of processes and policies in line with national guidance. There has been, and will continue to be, much learning from this tragedy.

“There is nothing I can say to Sheldon’s family that will ever ease their pain, but I do want to reassure them, once again, of the steps we have taken to correct the things which went so tragically wrong for Sheldon.”