Four-year-old boy died on hospital ward where he was so neglected he resorted to sucking moisture out of wet wipes, inquest is told
2:22PM GMT 13 Jan 2014
A four-year-old boy who died on a “shambolic” hospital ward was so neglected that he resorted to sucking moisture out of wet wipes, his parents told an inquest today.
Sean Turner excitedly told friends that doctors were going to “mend his heart” when he underwent complex surgery to correct heart problems he was born with.
But after the operation he was moved out of intensive care too soon because his bed was needed for other patients, his parents told the inquest.
They also claimed doctors missed a series of warning signs, including continuous vomiting, a high loss of fluids and huge blood clots and high blood pressure.
His mother Yolanda, 45, said she begged for help but “nobody would listen” on Ward 32 at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.
At one point Sean was so dehydrated he was taking the tissues used to cool his head and sucking the fluid from them, she claimed.
Sean died six weeks later after suffering a cardiac arrest in his father Steve’s arms, and finally a brain haemorrhage.
Mr and Mrs Turner gave harrowing accounts of their son’s care and treatment at the opening of his inquest in Flax Bourton, near Bristol.
Mrs Turner, 45, said: “Events on Ward 32 left his chances of survival stacked against him. The sub-optimal nursing levels had contributed to his death.
“Sean fought so hard in hospital. There were so many missed opportunities to rescue Sean from the state he was in.
“In taking the approach to wait and see if he would get better on his own was his ultimate demise.”
Carpenter Mr Turner, 47, added: “No parent should be put into the situation where they go into a safe environment where they have to plead for four days and have him have a cardiac arrest in their arms. We now have to live with that horror for so long.
“The care Sean received in the PICU (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit) was very high, unlike the care on Ward 32 where nurses were not around.
“They cared but didn’t seem to have the knowledge or know how to recognise a deteriorating child over four days.
“Sean suffered a catalogue of horrors but while they were concerned they appeared not to have the knowledge or the level of care to give him what he needed.”
The inquest heard how Sean, of Warminster, Wilts, was born with his heart on the right side of his body and blocked arteries between his heart and lungs.
He underwent the elective Fontan surgery – designed to help his heart work more efficiently – on January 24, 2012.
Afterwards he spent just 18 hours on the PICU despite doctors telling his parents he would spend around five days there.
When his parents asked why he was being moved to Ward 32 they were told his bed was needed.
Within hours of the move Sean began vomiting and was unable to keep liquid down. Tests showed fluid had begun to build up around his heart.
At one point Sean lost 440ml of fluid through his chest drain.
Mrs Turner, from Warminster, Wilts, said Sean was moved back to the PICU following surgery to drain the fluid and over 11 days he began to make a marked recovery, even getting out of bed to play with toys.
But again he was moved back to Ward 32 because his bed was needed.
“It was the worst news when the told us he was being returned to Ward 32 because we were told he was not critical and they needed the bed,” she said.
“It was the worst decision ever made for Sean, the inadequate staffing levels and no high dependency care were the beginning of the end. It was busy and chaotic.”
On February 12, 2012 Sean began to throw up once more and complain of a pain in his foot.
He became reliant on his oxygen mask again and became more and more dehydrated – even sucking moisture from tissues to quench his thirst.
“I could see he was bad but nobody listened,” said Mrs Turner, a foster mother.
“I asked so many times if he could go back to PICU but I was told there were no beds or he was not critical enough.
“He was so dehydrated he was grabbing the tissues used to cool his head and sucking the fluid from them.”
On February 16 2012 Sean suffered a heart attack, which he survived, and he was rushed into surgery where doctors drained 150ml of fluid from his right lung and 250ml from around his heart.
But on March 5, Sean was taken once more into theatre where he suffered a catastrophic bleed on his brain and died just hours later.
Doctors working for the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust, at the Children’s hospital, told the inquest Sean was regularly monitored and his parents’ concerns taken on board.
In a number of statements read out to the court staff said they followed all procedures set down in the “very difficult circumstances”.
Sarah Britton, the ward sister on ward 32, described Sean’s heart attack as “sudden and unexpected”.
The inquest continues.