THE first doctor to examine a young girl who later died from meningitis complications has said the disease was not on her “radar”.
Jurors at the second day of an inquest into the death of Kate Louise Pierce, of Rossett, who died age seven on a family trip to Florida in 2013, heard evidence yesterday from Dr Elizabeth Anderson.
On the evening of March 29, 2006, she was working for Shrop Doc as an out-of-hours GP in Pendine, Wrexham, where Kate was taken by her mother Diane with vomiting and green mucus issues.
Dr Anderson referred her to Wrexham Maelor Hospital and said diagnoses of meningitis from Kate’s symptoms were rare and she was concerned about a possible chest infection.
She said: “I felt she was an unwell child. She had a high temperature and had been given Calpol.
“She was quite listless, miserable, potentially hoarse, not really interacting with the environment around her.
“I wondered whether she had a respiratory tract infection. I looked in her mouth and in her throat which was quite red.
“It didn’t occur, the possibility of meningitis at that point. The potential signs would have been cold skin, maybe a rash at later stage.”
Dr Anderson’s initial thoughts were that Kate had pneumonia or bronchiolitis.
She added meningitis was not on her “diagnostic radar” when she referred Kate to the hospital, but “perhaps it should have been”.
That same night Kate was misdiagnosed with tonsillitis by a junior doctor at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, and she was sent home with her parents Mark and Diane in the early hours of March 30.
They returned the next day and she was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis and taken to Liverpool’s Alder Hey Hospital.
Her life was saved but brain injuries left her needing round-the-clock care until her death in July 2013.
Her father told the inquest at Abergele how the family had put their trust in health professionals.
Mr Pierce, a North Wales Police officer working in Mold at the time, described how he was so uneasy about Kate’s initial diagnosis by Dr Halenahalli Vijayakumar that he sought a second opinion.
He said Dr Vijayakumar left the room to speak to a senior colleague, returning to say Kate was fine to be taken home, but that his boss was not able to come into the room to see the family.
Reluctantly, the family took her home as it was past midnight and believed they had been given the opinions of three doctors – two at the Maelor, and one out-of-hours GP.
Mr Pierce said: “We wanted a second opinion. We had seen Kate unwell before but to us tonsillitis didn’t explain why she was floppy, flat, vomiting, screaming.
”It didn’t seem to explain to us how a child with tonsilitis would be like that.”
Mr Pierce said his family did not get the opportunity to stay in overnight with Kate and he felt midnight was on odd time for her to be discharged.
Despite their misgivings, they took the advice that Kate could be discharged.
He added: “We believed we’d seen three doctors. It is a trust issue. You do rely on what you get told.”
The inquest also heard from nurse Lesley Jones who was working on the children’s ward that night.
She said she did not remember the night well, but looking back at her notes Kate’s symptoms “weren’t unusual”.
”Meningitis is always at the back of your mind. But from these notes I wouldn’t have thought meningitis,” the nurse said.
Mrs Jones said had the family expressed concern at being sent home she would have raised it with a doctor or senior nurse.
David Lewis, assistant coroner for North East Wales and Central, adjourned the inquest until today when Dr Vijayakumar will give evidence.
See full story in the Chester Leader