The mother of a four-year-old girl who died from a meningococcal infection has told a coroner she feels “really stupid” for trusting the consultant who sent her home from hospital hours before she died.
Gracie Foster was at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, in Derbyshire, to have her tonsils removed when she fell ill on the ward.
The routine surgery was cancelled and a consultant paediatrician said she had a viral infection and sent her home, her mother Michelle Foster told an inquest on Monday.
Within hours, her daughter’s condition deteriorated and she was taken to Sheffield Children’s Hospital, where she died the same day.
Giving evidence at the inquest in Chesterfield, Foster said her daughter had seemed well before the planned operation on October 21 2015. She was even excited about having time off school and that she would be getting treats at her grandmother’s after the operation was over.
At the hospital, Gracie had seemed happy in the play area of the ward.
Foster described how she then heard a “whinge” noise from her daughter and found her sitting in the middle of the room.
She said Gracie complained of a sore throat and “seemed like she was sedated”.
When she was given pre-medication for her operation, the girl vomited and a nurse found she had a temperature of 40.1 degrees, Foster said.
An anaesthetist said they could no longer do the operation but did not conduct any further examination.
After 90 minutes, where Foster said no-one was checking on her daughter, consultant paediatrician Dr Tim Ubhi arrived, who looked at Gracie’s tonsils but did not examine Gracie any further.
“The doctor said she didn’t need antibiotics – she had a viral infection,” she told the inquest. “She needed paracetamol and ibuprofen.”
Foster said she was told to take her daughter home but she was “flopping” so much she had to carry her out of the hospital.
She told the coroner: “In hindsight, I feel really stupid that I trusted him ... I thought she must be all right. I took her away to die.”
“No-one was worried about her apart from me, it seemed.”
Gracie was later rushed to A&E by Foster’s mother, who later called to say “she’d crashed” at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
“It was really strange to think that,” she said. “No way she was that poorly. She’s all right. She’s got a viral infection.”
Foster said she got the “biggest shock of my life”, when she arrived at the hospital and found Gracie was “covered in tubes, 10 people all round her, absolutely covered in a purple rash”.
She added: “She just didn’t look like her at all. I thought ‘how has this happened?’”
A post-mortem examination found that Gracie died of Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome caused by a meningococcal infection.
Foster said Gracie had brought a letter home from school three weeks before her death informing parents that a child at the school had meningitis but she hadn’t been worried for her daughter as she had little contact with him.
And she told the coroner that the boy’s condition was nothing like what happened to Gracie.
Before the inquest, Foster said: “Gracie was full of life and a really happy little girl who made everyone smile. She was such an entertainer. There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t try, she was so adventurous.”
The coroner heard how pupils at Lenthall Nursery and Infant School, in Dronfield, had made a card ready for their friend’s return from her operation.
The inquest is due to conclude on Friday.