Baby died of meningitis after being sent home

Leah Carroll was seen by doctors at St John's Hospital in Livingston. Picture: Julie Bull
Leah Carroll was seen by doctors at St John's Hospital in Livingston. Picture: Julie Bull
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Health chiefs are investigating the death of a baby who died of meningitis 12 hours after being sent home from hospital with paracetamol.

Five-month-old Leah Carroll was seen by doctors at St John’s Hospital in Livingston in the early hours of Saturday morning after developing a temperature, shaking and becoming tense.

Her parents, Tanya Yeats and fiancé Robert Carroll, said they were told to take her home at 3am and give her liquid paracetamol and ibuprofen.

But at 7am she was rushed back to hospital as her condition worsened, and was later transferred to the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh, where she died in her parents’ arms at 3:25pm.

The family, from East Calder, West Lothian, now want more awareness of the symptoms of the killer disease – among healthcare workers as well as parents.

Last month, The Scotsman revealed that an “unusually high” number of deaths linked to meningitis and septicaemia had been recorded in Scotland in 2013. In the first nine months of the year, five deaths were reported, compared with one in the same period the previous year.

Symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia – known collectively as meningococcal disease – include a rash, aversion to bright light, painful joints and limbs, and a severe headache.

In the latest tragic case, Ms Yeats said medics examined a rash of about ten spots on Leah’s stomach and shoulder, but did not think it was a concern.

“They sent her home because she woke up after a feed bottle and laughed and smiled,” she said. “The doctor and nurse said she was back to normal and sent us home about 3am.

“We were told to give her the ibuprofen and to keep giving her Calpol [paracetamol].”

Leah was taken back to hospital at 7am after being violently sick and when she was examined again, the rash had spread.

She was immediately given antibiotics and an emergency team from the Sick Kids was dispatched to Livingston to prepare to transfer her to Edinburgh.

After three hours, Leah’s parents were allowed to see her before she was moved. Ms Yeats, 23, said: “Walking through the doors, it just wasn’t my child.

“She was wrapped up by machines. She was swollen, she was black in patches, her eyes were swollen, her lips were black.”

Shortly after Leah was transferred, the family were told her condition was deteriorating. She was removed from life support and died 20 minutes later.

“We spent the last moments together before she died at 3:25pm,” Ms Yeats said.

“We want to raise awareness of the symptoms not just for parents but healthcare people.”

A post-mortem examination found baby Leah died from meningococcal septicaemia.

Dr Edward Doyle, medical director at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, said: “We are investigating the circumstances and would urge the family to get in touch directly so we can discuss any concerns they have in detail.”

Mary Millar, manager of the Meningitis Research Foundation’s Scotland office, said: “We are entering the peak period for meningitis and septicaemia and many parents are not aware that their children are not protected against all strains.”

She said no vaccine was currently available in the UK against meningococcal B infection, the most common cause of meningitis, but the foundation was campaigning for one that is now under consideration to be introduced urgently.

“Vaccines have almost eliminated many types of meningitis and septicaemia, but they still present a very real threat to our children, so being aware of the symptoms and acting fast is essential to saving lives,” she said.