A grieving mum who lost her young son to sepsis has spoken of her pride that what happened to him has saved other lives.
Katrina Keegan said she struggles to live with a pain already impossible to bear after little Sheldon died at the age of four.
Sheldon, from Houghton-le-Spring, died of overwhelming sepsis on the morning of November 26, 2018, just hours after he had been discharged from Sunderland Royal Hospital.
An inquest heard last month how how Katrina first took him to A&E three days before his death when he started suffering from headaches, vomiting, a high temperature and lethargy.
He had a full sceptic screening – including a lumbar puncture.
But by the time interim blood culture test results came back that showed he was at risk of sepsis, Sheldon’s condition had improved so much so that medics suspected the positive result was due to a contaminant.
And Sheldon was sent home despite the fact that the definitive blood culture test results had not yet come back, and no antibiotics were given.
Katrina, 25, is calling on Health Secretary Matt Hancock to make changes that would see parents being given more information by medics, in the hope it will help prevent others losing their precious children.
She has told of her pride at learning that what happened to Sheldon has saved other lives.
She said: “I’m so proud of Sheldon. I think a lot of children’s lives have been saved by Sheldon already. Sometimes I will get a message off a parent saying their children had something like this and they have survived sepsis.
“It does make me really upset that they have saved a child with the same thing, and why couldn’t they save mine? But I with this on any other person.”
But she will forever by haunted by the knowledge that chances to save Sheldon’s life were missed while he was in hospital.
Experienced paediatrician Dr Geoffrey Lawson described his decision to discharge Sheldon from hospital the day before his death as his “lifelong regret”.
Just minutes after Sheldon’s family left the hospital a doctor was informed the boy’s final blood culture tests were positive for Group A streptococcus – a bacteria that can cause sepsis, the inquest was told.
The hospital made numerous attempts to contact Sheldon’s family on three phone numbers they had, but were unsuccessful in getting through.
After Sheldon’s condition deteriorated at home he was rushed back to hospital, but nothing could be done to save his life.
An expert witness told the inquest that Sheldon’s death could have been avoided had hospital staff administered antibiotics instead of sending him home, saying four “clear” opportunities to give the youngster intravenous antibiotics had been missed.
Although the inquest jury concluded that Sheldon had died of natural causes South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust apologised to the family for the shortcomings in the medical treatment and said changes have been made to “correct the things that went so tragically wrong for Sheldon”.
Sheldon’s family said after the five-day hearing that they still believed the little boy was neglected “deeply” by doctors.
And Coroner Derek Winter said he would be writing to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to raise concerns around antibiotic medication and its administration, and contact information at the point of admission and discharge.
But Katrina would like the Health Secretary to go further.
She believes changes should be made that would see doctors giving parents more information about their children’s illnesses, and the results of any tests carried out at hospital.
“I hope something does change. But I would like them to perhaps change a bit more so that parents really understand how bad their children are when they don’t see it in their faces,” she said. “I think parents should know everything.
“No one told me about his blood tests. I should have been told and then I would have known how much risk he was at. I wouldn’t have let him leave hospital if I had known.”
Katrina is also urging all parents to get clued-up on sepsis themselves so they are ready to spot the signs, and fight to get the right treatment if they need to.
“I took Sheldon in with a bad ear. I did the right thing. I took him in,” she said, ” Sepsis is not something people know about. I thought it was something you got from a cut. I didn’t know you could get it from an ear infection. But now I hear about it all the time.
“I hope more people are getting aware of it now.
“I would just say if something doesn’t feel right keep fighting. You know your children best. I knew Sheldon was poorly, but not that poorly. He fought and fought until his last breath.
“And just 100% make sure they can contact you. I would definitely say check on the numbers they have and when you are getting discharged check again.”
But any improvements to understanding of sepsis or hospital procedures have come too late for Katrina, who has been left with a life-long legacy of agonising grief and questions.
“I still don’t believe he’s passed away. I think I’m still in denial. Sometimes I think he’s on holiday and he’s going to come back, she said.”
“He was just so polite and so loving. He didn’t have a bad bone in him. He was so playful and he was never ever naughty.