Family of Sheldon Farnell say they are 'broken' as jury concludes four-year-old died of 'natural causes'
‘The whole family is broken’ – these are the words of a distraught mum who lost her boy aged four to sepsis as a jury concludes neglect did not contribute to his death.
Sheldon Gary Farnell died of sepsis on the morning of Monday, November 26, 2018, hours after he was discharged from Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Following a five-day inquest, a majority jury found that the ‘beautiful and loving’ boy died of ‘natural causes’ – which were not contributed to by neglect.
South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has apologised for the ‘shortcomings in the care Sheldon received’ and have made changes to ‘correct the things that went so tragically wrong for Sheldon’.
Senior coroner Derek Winter also said he will be writing a report to the health secretary highlighting concerns around antibiotic medication and its administration, and contact information at the point of admission and discharge.
Sheldon’s heartbroken mum broke down in tears as the jury’s conclusion was read out at Sunderland Coroners Court, sitting at Redhills, Durham Miners Hall.
Outside the hearing mum Katrina Keegan, 25, said: “I’m very disappointed, I didn’t think we would get this outcome. I’m just gutted, devastated. It’s been very hard [to hear the details of what happened to Sheldon], I’m broken. The whole family is broken. We’re all devastated.”
During the week-long inquest, the jury heard how a ‘very unwell’ Sheldon was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital’s paediatric accident and emergency department on Friday, November 23.
He was admitted and a full sceptic screening – including a lumbar puncture – was carried out but Sheldon was never given antibiotics.
The four-year-old’s condition appeared to improve during his hospital stay and he was deemed ‘clinically well’ and sent home before 1pm on Sunday, November 25.
Less than an hour after his family left the hospital test results confirmed Group A streptococcus – a bacteria which can cause sepsis - was found in his blood.
Doctors tried to contact the family but phone numbers in their system were outdated and the decision was made not to ask police to trace the family and bring the youngster back to hospital for antibiotic amoxicillin with a plan made instead to contact the GP the following morning for contact details.
The little boy’s condition worsened at home and he was rushed back into hospital at around 4am on Monday morning by which time was in sceptic shock.
Tragically at 8.42am that morning Sheldon died after suffering a cardiac arrest.
Dr Geoffery Lawson, the paediatric consultant who treated Sheldon told the jury this week that it is his ‘life long regret’ that he didn’t appreciate the severity of Sheldon’s illness.
Speaking after the inquest Sheldon’s grandmother, Nicola Jamieson said: “We’ve had to relive from when Sheldon took poorly to the day he died, up to his funeral, and the last two and a half years – we’ve all had to support each other some way or another.
"To get an outcome like today it’s just absolutely devastating. It’s so wrong. This little boy, he’s not meant to be dead, he’s meant to be here with us and his mam. And he’s not, he’s been taken away and he’s only four. It’s not fair.”
Katrina’s partner Holly Keegan said the one positive from the inquest conclusion was that the coroner would be writing to the Health Secretary.
She said: "It’s going to prevent future deaths which is great but it’s not going to bring Sheldon back for Katrina and the family.”
Hilda Jamieson, Sheldon’s great grandmother, added: “[Sheldon] loved life, he really did. He loved life. It should never have happened to him. I still personally say had he have gotten the necessary medication on the Friday when he was admitted we wouldn’t be here now. He would be still standing with us.”
The trust has apologised for the shortcomings in the care Sheldon received after the inquest heard earlier in the week from an expert witness who said the trust's protocols and guidelines were not up to date
Dr Paul McAndrew, deputy medical director at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said: “On behalf of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, I would like to once again offer our condolences to Sheldon’s family and apologise unreservedly on behalf of the Trust for the shortcomings in the care Sheldon received.
“There are no words to adequately express the regret we have in the tragic loss of young Sheldon on the morning of Monday 26th November 2018. Everyone involved in Sheldon’s care has been deeply affected by his death.
“The complexity of recognising Sepsis in children is a major challenge. We continue to undertake widespread education of our staff about the recognition and management of Sepsis. We have also made important changes should we ever need to recall any child to hospital in future.
“As recognised by the independent paediatric expert, Dr Ninis, the Trust has taken Sheldon’s death very seriously and there has been comprehensive review of processes and policies in line with national guidance. There has been, and will continue to be, much learning from this tragedy.
“There is nothing I can say to Sheldon’s family that will ever ease their pain, but I do want to reassure them, once again, of the steps we have taken to correct the things which went so tragically wrong for Sheldon.”