Erin was just 14-months-old when she contracted sepsis. By the time doctors were able to recognise her condition infection had overwhelmed Erin’s body and she had kidney failure.
Erin’s mum, Emma, believes there must be better education to ensure the condition is recognised without the delays that affected Erin, so that other babies can receive quicker treatment.
Emma said: “Erin fell ill the morning of Thursday December 17 when she developed a temperature of 40 degrees. I had administered Paracetamol but this made no difference so I contacted NHS24 who advised I should seek an appointment with my GP as soon as possible. I attended my local GP Practice where my GP advised that she wished to consult paediatric colleagues and subsequently we were asked to attend Children’s Assessment at Forth Valley Royal Hospital. Erin had a couple of small spots on her chest and both the doctor and I felt this was most likely a virus or potentially chicken pox.
“I was advised that if I had further concerns that night I could contact Children’s Assessment. Shortly after returning home Erin vomited six times and when I changed her clothing her entire upper body was covered in a pale red, blotchy rash. These symptoms on top of those already evident concerned me as I felt they were potentially signs of meningitis so around 10.30pm I called the Children’s Ward and was advised to bring her back.
“We spent until around 2am in the treatment room and the two doctors who examined her advised that it was a viral rash and we should return home but if I was further concerned over the next few days I was to contact the Children’s Assessment ward.”
Over the following two days Erin’s temperature remained high and her condition worsened. By the SundayErin’s condition had not improved, the rash had become more intense and fiery and her fever continued so Emma contacted NHS24 again as she felt if it was a virus she should be starting to see some signs of improvement.
Emma said: “The NHS24 nurse agreed with me and felt I should return to hospital to have her assessed. I contacted the Children’s Ward as I understood I had access for the next few days but was told that this was not the case. When I asked what I should do I was told I would have to call NHS24 back or if I felt it was serious I should go to A&E.
“I contacted NHS24 and was advised that they would contact A&E and that I should go there. We arrived there in the early afternoon. Erin remained cuddled into me with no interest in her surroundings. The rash covered her body, arms, hands, legs and feet. Most notable was the patch on her left foot that had turned a bruised purple colour and appeared to be causing her discomfort when it was touched. Her feet were very swollen.
“Those who saw us in A&E commented that it was not a typical viral rash but didn’t know what it was. A&E felt we would be going back up to the Children’s Ward for assessment and contacted paediatrics. However, we were then told that the doctor they had spoken with had said he was aware of this child’s name and had seen her on the Thursday night. A&E staff advised us that they had described the rash to the paediatrician and the conclusion was reached that it was viral. We were sent home and advised to see our GP on Tuesday if still concerned.”
Emma and her own mum questioned why no blood test had been done and asked how medical staff could continue to say Erin’s illness was viral after four days during which her condition had worsened. Doctors still insisted it was most likely a virus that could have been triggered by something as simple as a common cold. Increasingly worried, Emma contacted her GP clinic again the following day and was given an appointment for the Tuesday morning.
At that appointment she again saw the same GP who was surprised they had been sent home from A&E and said she wished to contact paediatric colleagues at the hospital again as she felt they needed to go back. Returning to the hospital for the fourth time, a nurse became concerned when she saw the rash on Erin’s legs and other medical staff were called to examine her.
Emma said: “The on duty paediatric consultant then took over treating Erin and acted very swiftly to take bloods and start fluids and antibiotics. He said she would be admitted and be in hospital for at least the next few days. I was obviously relieved that my concerns were finally being taken seriously but also extremely upset that my child was now so critically ill. I was not prepared for the news that came later that evening that the infection had overwhelmed her body and she was in kidney failure. I cannot thank both my GP and the on- duty consultant enough for their decisions and actions on Tuesday December 22 as they undoubtedly saved Erin’s life.”
Reflecting on Erin’s treatment, Emma said: “I was disappointed by my initial dealing with A&E and the Children’s Ward, however the consultants who led her diagnosis took the time to speak to me and answer my questions and the team who cared for her and supported me throughout our week-long stay were amazing.
“I feel there is a need for sepsis education and awareness raising for both the general public and the medical profession. A number of medical staff in A&E agreed they didn’t know what it was, and I was surprised that no blood test or swab was taken until December 22, by which time Erin was critically ill. We came so close to losing her.”
Erin had a year of regular kidney scans after the illness and thankfully made a full recovery. She is now healthy, happy and doing well at primary school. She recently completed a 50km challenge and raised over £800 for Sepsis Research.