A young mother died in agony after opportunities were missed to diagnose a rare and “insidious” illness which left her vomiting blood and unable to walk.
Kirsty Louise Childs, 20, of Denby Dale, was found dead in her bed by a GP on January 2, 2013, after her family made numerous calls to the Yorkshire Ambulance Service and the now defunct NHS Direct asking for a doctor.
An inquest into her death found that Kirsty, who leaves a four-year-old daughter, died from shock caused by superior mesenteric vein thrombosis, meaning a vein from her bowel had become blocked by a blood clot.
The inquest heard that if Kirsty had been admitted to hospital following the family’s initial calls for advice, doctors would have spotted the clot and she would have survived.
But instead, the family were told to contact an out-of-hours service and go to a walk-in centre, with one nurse passing her symptoms off as a stomach bug.
Professor Michael Gough, a vascular surgery consultant from Leeds Teaching Hospitals, told the inquest the clot was an “insidious” illness which, if left untreated, can irreversably damage the bowels and prove fatal.
He said: “If admission had occurred earlier I think on the balance of probabilities Kirsty would have had the correct diagnosis and would have survived.
“It was a missed opportunity.”
The inquest heard Kirsty had begun to feel unwell on Christmas Day 2012, with her symptoms deteriorating as she became weaker, experiencing “excruciating” abdominal pain, fainting and vomiting blood.
Superior mesentric vein thrombosis, which was not diagnosed until after her death, means that blood is unable to leave the bowels and can eventually lead to a blood infection and shock.
Recording a narrative verdict, assistant coroner Mary Burke said: “Mrs Childs [Kirsty’s mum] contacted the NHS Direct on a number of occasions for advice and assistance due to a range of symptoms.
“As a result, Kirsty was not admitted to hospital.
“If she had by the morning of January 1 and received definitive care it is likely Kirsty would have survived.”
Following Kirsty’s death, an investigation was launched into NHS Direct’s handling of the case, finding that the correct path of action was not taken following the family’s telephone consultations.
Mrs Burke said: “I am concerned that health advisors have to follow regulations from answers that affects how the care goes forward.”