A LITTLE girl left brain damaged and needing 24-hour care after being misdiagnosed as a baby died on a holiday of a lifetime.
Jurors at the first day of an inquest yesterday were told seven-year-old Kate Louise Pierce had stopped breathing in her sleep during a family trip to Florida with parents Mark and Diane and older sister Ellen.
In 2006 Kate, of Rossett, was left severely brain damaged after contracting meningitis at nine months old.
She had fallen ill on March 29, 2006 and vomited a “huge amount of green mucus”.
After being seen by an out-of-hours GP, she was referred to Wrexham Maelor Hospital where a diagnosis of viral tonsillitis was made by junior doctor Dr Halenahalli Vijayakumar.
Not happy with the diagnosis, Kate’s parents asked for a second opinion.
Speaking at the hearing at Abergele, Mrs Pierce said Dr Vijayakumar returned about 45 minutes later. He said he had checked with his boss and Mr and Mrs Pierce were free to take their daughter home.
The next day Kate’s condition continued to deteriorate. She was rushed back to the Maelor, where she was correctly diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis and was transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.
Mrs Pierce told the hearing: “Kate was born June 19. She was hitting her milestones.
“She had just had her eight months check-up, the health visitor had been.
“She was lovely, she was starting to be inquisitive, starting to sit herself up and hold on to your finger.
“On March 29 she was at her grandparents. They called to say Kate was unwell. It was nearly 5.10pm.
“I found her very unhappy, with a high temperature. She was really unhappy and grizzling.
“She was a happy baby, even when she was poorly.”
She continued: “I got both children and put them into the car. I took them home and rang the doctors.
“Kate vomited a huge amount of green mucus. It was completely odd. She was extremely unhappy. It frightened me.
“Since it was past 6pm, the phone went straight through to the out-of-hours service. I went through the symptoms – red hot, freezing cold hands and feet.
“I was given an appointment with the out-of-hours GP. Kate was sat on my knee, very unhappy.
“She vomited. This time it was yellow and it was all over me and Kate.
”She (the GP) wrote a letter and she rang the hospital. She examined Kate and listened to her chest. When she rang Wrexham Hospital she explained how Kate was and said ‘I am sending her over’.”
When the family saw Dr Vijayakumar, Mrs Pierce said he was dressed in a blue, theatre uniform and appeared “quite jovial”.
“Dr Vijayakumar referred to having seen the letter but didn’t have it on him,” Mrs Pierce said.
Kate was diagnosed with tonsillitis, but no antibiotics were given as it was said to be a viral infection.
Kate's condition continued to deteriorate and on her return to hospital on March 31, she was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis.
Mrs Pierce added: “I had not heard meningitis mentioned prior to that. I was just puzzled. I know meningitis is horrific.”
David Lewis, assistant coroner for North Wales East and Central was told Kate was transferred to Alder Hey. She was not meant to survive and the parents were asked about end of life plans, but after several months of intensive care she was released from hospital.
She was severely disabled and had round the clock care needs. She was visually impaired and could not hear very well.
Speaking about the holiday to Florida some years later, Mrs Pierce said tearfully: “We had promised Ellen a holiday of a lifetime. We got there, we went first class and Kate sat in her little booth with her headphones and she was absolutely fine – she loved it. We were staying in a condo/bungalow.
“[The night she died] I was sharing a double bed with her. She was quite comfortable.
“After a while I dozed off. I woke up, wide awake, and I released I couldn’t hear her breathing. I tried to resuscitate her but she had passed away.”
Kate died in Florida in 2013.
A number of medical professionals are expected to give evidence over the next few days.
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