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Fatal sepsis misdiagnosed as upset stomach

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At the beginning of October 2011 Naomi Dawes-Dickson developed sickness and abdominal pain. She was not unduly concerned initially. However, within a few hours, the pain and sickness worsened.

She felt so poorly she attended Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital Accident and Emergency department. She explained the symptoms to them and was sent home with a diagnosis of an upset stomach. But Naomi didn’t get any better. Her vomiting got worse and the pain became unbearable.

She returned to the A&E department just a few hours after her first admission. The staff could see she was worse but thought that she was dehydrated. After giving her fluids, Naomi was discharged in the early hours of the morning.

Naomi was showing classic signs of sepsis but this was not considered as a diagnosis. If it had been and antibiotics had been administered at this point, it is likely that Naomi would have survived.

The following morning, Naomi managed to reach her mother’s home and collapsed at the front door. She had to be wheeled into the A&E department due to her disorientation and severe pain. By this third attendance within just over 24 hours, sepsis was finally diagnosed, but Naomi was now in septic shock. She was started to have multiple organ failure and, despite the hospital’s efforts, Naomi died at 9 pm that evening.

Access Legal’s specialist medical negligence solicitor handling this case, Sarah Corser, said:

‘Sepsis affects 150,000 people annually and Naomi is just one of 44,000 people who die of the condition each year. Many of those deaths, just like Naomi’s, could have been prevented. Naomi’s initial symptoms were dismissed as gastric problems, yet were in fact signs of the onset of sepsis, which as demonstrated here, can be fatal.’

Naomi was only 45 and training to be a teaching assistant. She left a widower, her mother, who had already lost one daughter to cancer and two sisters. She also leaves her teenage goddaughter for whom she was legal guardian and a rock of stability.

Naomi’s death could have been avoided. If she had been admitted on either of the first two attendances in hospital and received antibiotic treatment she is likely to have survived. Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust have admitted liability and the case continues with Sarah confident she can achieve justice for Naomi’s family.

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