A TODDLER who suffered a double amputation after developing septicaemia would have shown no symptoms of the life-threatening condition when her frantic mum called a medical helpline, a top judge has heard.
Dr Alistair Thomson – a paediatrician with an expertise in meningococcal septicaemia – said Chantelle Pringle, now 11, who was two at the time, would have been displaying a range of “viral-type” symptoms when her mum, Keeley Grotz, rang Nestor Primecare Services Ltd in the early hours of November 17, 2004.
However, she would have exhibited none of the tell-tale symptoms of the acute bacterial blood infection, which took hold in the mid-morning of the following day, said the medic – including a spreading rash, severe dehydration and breathlessness.
Had the nurse who advised Ms Grotz over the telephone arranged an immediate GP call-out, the visiting doctor would have been unlikely to diagnose septicaemia, he told the court.
“I think the symptoms would have been interpreted to be consistent with a diagnosis of a viral infection,” said Dr Thomson, who added that the “progress” of Chantelle’s disease suggested her acute symptoms would have kicked in several hours later.
He described meningococcal septicaemia as a “waterfall-like” phenomenon – in which symptoms of shock, high fever and rashes “accelerate” very rapidly.
The disease is notoriously hard to pick up – particularly in infants – said the medic, and is also extremely rare.
Dr Thomson was giving evidence on the fourth day of Chantelle’s £1million lawsuit against Nestor Primecare Services – which was responsible for running the out-of-hours service for patients contacting their GPs.
Through her mother, Keeley Grotz, of Barmston, Washington, she claims the nurse gave her “negligent medical advice” over the phone.
Ms Grotz says she was told to get Chantelle some Calpol and “ring back if you’re worried or concerned” after she rang the service soon after midnight, detailing her daughter’s symptoms of vomiting, sleepiness, constant crying and “burning up”.
The family’s barrister, Lisa Sullivan, claimed that the reported symptoms should have prompted the duty nurse to call out a GP or an ambulance, and that this would have secured Chantelle the emergency attention she so desperately needed.
Gerard Boyle, for Nestor Primecare Services, said the company accepted that Chantelle “should have been seen by a GP within two hours of the call” – but maintained this would have made little difference to the final tragic outcome.
Chantelle was ultimately rushed to Sunderland Royal Hospital at about 11am on the fateful day of her mother’s call, and her “extreme case” was swiftly treated with fluids and antibiotics.
However, the treatment came too late to prevent the destruction of vital body tissue due to blood poisoning, leading to the amputation of her right foot at the ankle and part of her left foot.
Mr Boyle argued Chantelle would have needed to receive antibiotics “10 to 12 hours before they were actually administered” to avoid the “inflammatory cascade” which made the amputations necessary. That meant the antibiotics would have had to be given before her mother’s telephone call, he claimed.
l The hearing continues.