Harry's Story

Baby Harry Connolly with his mother

We lost our son, Harry Raymond Connolly, on 1st May 2011 aged 19 months.

Harry was our beautiful blue eyed confident fun loving boy.

He had always been healthy and strong, however on Saturday 23 April 2011 he developed what seemed to be a normal bout of diarrhoea, this continued into the Sunday but it was Easter weekend and he had eaten a lot of chocolate and was fine in himself so at first we put it down to a chocolate overdose!

By Monday he was passing blood in his stools which also contained a lot of mucus, being bank holiday my GP was closed so I called NHS direct.

The nurse on the phone asked me a lot of questions but at this point Harry was still running around the house with his brother, and still eating Easter eggs!! She concluded that he seemed OK but to take him to my GP first thing in the morning as passing blood was not normal.

By monday morning Harry was noticably unwell; he was lethargic, still passing blood and was passing stools every hour, vomiting and generally feeling very sorry for himself. I took him to see my GP who was very concerned and referred Harry to our local hospital as he felt Harry needed further tests and they would be done more quickly at hospital.

We arrived at the hospital Monday morning, Harry was admitted onto the children’s ward where a Dr came and took his history, she asked me questions such as was there a history of bowel problems in the family, what had he eaten over the weekend, had we eaten out any where etc. She arranged for a stool sample to be sent to the lab and told me Harry probably had a virus. In the meantime a nurse came and took Harrys observations, his heart rate and blood pressure were very high, much higher than they should have been for a child of his age, but when I questioned this I was told that it would be because he is anxious that he was in hospital and it was quite normal.

Harry continued to pass lots of blood in his stools, he passed stools every hour whilst in hospital, and every time his observations were taken that afternoon they were higher than that expected of a 19 month old child. The second Dr that saw Harry that afternoon acknowledged that his heart rate was too high and arranged to put him onto a heart monitor. However during the 2 hours that Harry was on the heart monitor nobody came to take any readings from the monitor and there were times when the alarm went off and still nobody came. The Dr decided to keep Harry in overnight for observations but was confident that Harry had a nasty virus called rotavirus which causes sickness and diarrhea and in some cases can cause bloody stools. As Harry had diarrhea the nurses were monitoring how much fluid Harry was taking, and taking his nappies away to weigh them in order to record his fluid intake/output.

The following morning Harry was no better; he was very lethargic still passing lots of stools with blood and had vomited all his milk the night before, however the Dr that came to see Harry that morning decided that it was best that he go home as there was nothing that they would do in the hospital that I could not do for Harry at home, and they were confident that Harry had rotavirus. (At this point I had never heard of rotavirus) We were still waiting for stool samples to come back. Harry was discharged from hospital with sachets of Dioralyte, this was the first time Dioralyte had been given to Harry or had been mentioned, we were also given 48 hours open access and I was told that I was to take him back if I was at all concerned, however the Dr was confident it was a nasty tummy bug and it would pass. I wasn’t happy about this plan and didn’t feel Harry had made any improvement overnight, but the Dr seemed very confident.

The following day Harry was worse, he was sleeping round the clock which was very unusual for him as Harry never slept from the day he was born!!! He was still passing bloody stools frequently and was now vomiting any juice/Dioralyte that I gave him. I was extremely concerned this was not ‘normal poorly’ for my son and I was concerned that he would become dehydrated if he wasn’t already. So I took Harry back to the hospital on the Thursday afternoon.

A different Dr came to see Harry to the Dr we had seen the previous two days. I told the Dr that I was very concerned that Harry would become dehydrated; she examined Harry and assured me he was not dehydrated and that they would do a fluid challenge to see how much fluid Harry could tolerate. His observations were taken and again his heart rate and blood pressure were very high, in fact the machine was flashing high in big red letters when they took his blood pressure. Again when I questioned this I was told it was because he was upset that he was in hospital and it was perfectly normal for children to be distressed whilst in hospital.

Over the next hour I gave Harry the bottle of Dioralyte the hospital gave me and he managed to drink it all without being sick, I was obviously pleased about this as he had spent most of the day vomiting any fluid I gave him. The Dr came back an hour later and assured me again that Harry was not dehydrated and that he would not become dehydrated as long as he was keeping his juice down for at least 20 minutes or more.

At this point the viral part of the stool tests had come back and showed that Harry did not have rotavirus . I asked the Dr what could be wrong with Harry if it was not rotavirus as I did not feel that this was just a 'normal' tummy bug and Harry was very unwell. She replied it would probably be another virus; I was unhappy with her response and told her I felt that in that case they needed to find out which virus it was, to which she replied they cannot test for all viruses as it was too expensive. She also said that there was a good chance it could be bacterial, such as E-coli but the test results for this would not be back until the following day.

I felt that if Harry had E-coli they should be treating him with antibiotics, I told the Dr my views and she said even if he was suffering with this she would not treat him with antibiotics; she would just let it run through his system. I found this very surprising but again I was left putting my faith into her opinion. Harry was discharged from hospital again.

On Friday Harry was no better; he was sleeping around the clock, he hadn’t eaten since Monday, he was extremely lethargic, and he couldn’t even sit up. My mum called the hospital and spoke to a nurse on the children’s ward, she explained how sick Harry was and that he had been in and out of Hospital all week and this was not normal, and that Harry also had open access to the ward. Sadly, the nurse she spoke to insisted that Harry did not have open access because he could not find a record of this and that we could not take him back to the ward, we would have to take him to our GP or A&E.

We took Harry to the out of hours GP service as it was the day of the Royal wedding and a bank holiday so my GPs were closed. I initially spoke to a Dr on the phone that was triaging at the out of hours centre. I explained Harrys symptoms told her that this was not normal and I needed to see a Dr, she agreed that this was absolutely not normal it sounded like Harry was dehydrated and we needed to find out why and that she suspected colitis. This was the first time Colitis had ever been mentioned to us. She told us to come straight down and they would probably refer Harry back to the hospital.

Sadly, when we got to the out of hours centre we saw a different Dr to the one I spoke to on the phone. Again we went through Harrys symptoms, the fact that he was passing blood in his stools and that he had been discharged from hospital, we put a big emphasis on the lethargy and the sleeping around the clock as this was not normal for Harry. We asked that Harry be referred back to the hospital and that further tests such as blood tests and x-rays were done. For every reason we gave the Dr that we felt this needed to be done he could give us 10 why Harry did not need referring back to hospital. The GP said that Harry was not dehydrated and that this was perfectly normal and the reason he was weak was because he had not eaten or drank milk since Monday, he said “you would be weak if you hadn’t eaten for 5 days!” He said the diarrhoea could go on for up to 14 days, it was just a virus and it would run its course, he would not refer Harry back to the hospital as he said they will not do anything so there was no point. He advised us to feed Harry rice and yoghurt and to keep up his fluid intake and to try and get him to drink milk.

We were left feeling like over anxious parents and Harry was just a toddler with a tummy bug. This was now the 5th Dr Harry had seen along with several nurses and they were all saying the same thing, and although I had a little voice in my head telling me this wasn’t right and I knew something was seriously wrong, I let them talk me out of my instinct. I was thinking “Surely five Drs cannot all be wrong?” Oh how I wish I’d listened to my instincts.

The following day Harry seemed a little brighter, he had crawled across the landing, and he hadn’t really moved all week. He was crying, and again he hadn’t really said a word all week which was really unusual as he was usually a little chatter box and spoke really well for a 19 month old. He was trying to eat which he hadn’t done all week and the diarrhoea seemed to have stopped. I started to think that maybe the Drs were right afterall and that it was just a tummy bug and that I had been overly worried. We even took him out for a little walk in his buggy that afternoon as we thought the fresh air would do him good and he would be fed up of being indoors.

That evening we put Harry to bed at about 10pm and went to bed at around the same time. Harry had been sleeping in our room next to our bed all week as we had been so worried about him. He woke me several times during the night and I gave him a drink, about 1.30am was the last time I tended to him. The next thing I knew I woke to Ray (Harrys daddy) shouting “Oh my God “with Harry in his arms. Harry had died.

We knew Harry was very sick but nobody listened to us, after an agonising 3 month wait the post mortem results showed that Harry had died from dehydration and acute renal failure, caused by severe colitis.

At Harry’s inquest we found out that the nurses were not taking an accurate record of Harry’s fluid intake or output, they had not filled in the fluid balance charts correctly so any Dr looking at them may have assumed that Harry was getting the right amount of fluid when in fact he wasn’t getting anything like enough.

Harry was not offered Dioralyte in the hospital which should be standard practice in any patient with diarrhoea.

Harry’s high heart rate was due to dehydration - one of the key symptoms of dehydration is tachycardia.

His high blood pressure was due to his kidneys not performing as they should.

The blood in his stools was caused by a severe procto colitis infection.

The hospital should have taken blood tests as this would have identified the dehydration and Harrys failing kidney function.

There was a catastrophic failure to re admit Harry to hospital on the Friday when the nurse could find no record of Harry’s open access.

There were four recorded windows of lost opportunity to save Harry and 13 listed failures, some of which were catastrophic failures.

By sharing Harry’s story I hope to stop such unnecessary tragedies happening to any other children and to stop any other families going through the heart ache that we do every day.

I also hope that it will hammer home the message to all medical professionals that nobody knows their child better than their mother. Mothers should be listened to at all times because if the Drs had listened to me I have no doubt that I would not be sitting here typing this today.

My BIGGEST regret is that I allowed myself to be talked into ignoring that little voice my INSTINCT. I fully support Mothers Instinct, what it stands for and what it hopes to achieve.