The mother of a toddler who died from invasive group strep A infection having initially been sent home by hospital staff said she hopes any new procedures arising from her death might save other families similar pain.
Phoenix Graham-Hayden, from Malahide in Co Dublin, was just two when she died at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin on November 3rd last year.
Although she had never had much trouble with illness, her mother Lauren said her instinct told her there was something wrong when she became unwell.
Given the wait time for an out of hours D-Doc appointment, she brought Phoenix to Temple Street but was told she had a viral infection and to treat her at home with Calpol and Nurofen medication.
“[As] anyone could tell, when you lose a child it’s not easy, it never changes. I know everyone says a year on things might get easier. Nothing gets easier,” Lauren told RTÉ Radio in an interview shortly after the conclusion of her daughter’s inquest.
“If anything our pain is still the very same from the day that we lost her. If anything, worse now.”
She described Phoenix as having been full of life, sassy, “the most beautiful little thing that ever, ever walked the planet”.
RTÉ reported that the coroner recommended an early warning system be introduced for all children presenting to hospital with suspected strep A infections.
“I expressed how I felt. I told them that she wasn’t well, told them that she was sick, and they discharged us,” she told the News At One programme.
Phoenix had been vomiting, had a high temperature and was not eating. Hospital staff tried to administer steroids but she just spat them out because her throat was sore.
“I knew she wasn’t well, she wasn’t getting any better because there was no medicines actually provided. It was as we were told, viral, and just Calpol was all we were given,” Lauren said.
“I decided [later] to ring an ambulance because she was more or less non-responsive, couldn’t hold her head up. She was lethargic the first time that we had her in [hospital] and she just deteriorated as we all know she just got sicker and sicker.”
She was then admitted on the second occasion after a couple of hours waiting.
“Once she was admitted it was kind of panic stations,” Lauren said.
“We got the strep test, the rapid strep test [and] figured out that it was strep that she had. She had left-sided pneumonia. Everything was kind of a rush after that because it was like they realised how sick Phoenix actually was.”
Doctors later told her family she was very ill and she was brought to the intensive care unit. However, she went into cardiac arrest and died in the early hours of the following morning.
“As a family we are heartbroken with the way it happened because as a parent I think everybody knows their own child. And it’s just unfortunate the way everything has unfolded,” Lauren said.
“There is another two children involved in our family and they’re just absolutely distraught with everything. I have a son that’s autistic and he just cannot comprehend how his little sister [was] here one day and just isn’t here now. They were best friends and she’s just gone now, forever.”
Lauren said she hoped any new procedures introduced to care for sick children as a result of the tragedy might mean no other family will have to go through the same experience.
“Every minute, not even every hour, every minute [in treatment] counts,” she said.
A statement from Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), read out on the programme, said they would consider the recommendations of the coroner.