Sepsis in newborn baby results in death, mum sues hospital

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Patrycja Majewska is suing a hospital in England after her newborn baby died from their hospital staff's medical negligence.

Grieving mum Patrycja Majewska is taking legal action against a hospital in England for being responsible for the tragic death of her baby boy. She reveals that the medical professionals’ negligence resulted in sepsis in newborn Aleksander Majewska.

Baby Aleksander was born with brain damage and sepsis resulting from lack of oxygen. This was caused by medical staff who failed to make the correct diagnosis and administer medication for the baby’s condition. They also failed to monitor the baby’s heartbeat during labour.

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Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused by the body’s response to an infection. It develops when chemicals that are released to fight an infection cause inflammation in the body instead. In short, sepsis is your body attacking itself.

Sepsis in newborn baby

It began when Majewska’s water broke. The Coventry University Hospital in England, assessed her situation and instructed her to return the following day. Because of the lack of beds in the maternity ward, she was forced to stay in a general ward until a bed became available several hours later.

The 26-year-old mum was made to wait for more than 50 hours in agonising pain because the hospital staff were unable to cope with their workload. It’s highly probable that waiting too long can cause an infection resulting in sepsis in newborn babies.

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Lola, a victim of sepsis.
Image: Facebook (A mother without a child)

“They ignored me when I needed them most. I put my faith and trust in them as professionals and they let me down,” she said. “I was boiling hot and in pain but they ignored me. Now I have to live with the consequences for the rest of my life.”

Upon being admitted to the maternity ward, she displayed a high white blood cell count — an early indicator of sepsis in an unborn child. The staff overseeing her care failed to record her state correctly. This, in turn, affected all other subsequent decisions regarding the baby’s health.

Five days old

Usually, urgent and decisive action is required once sepsis in newborn babies is detected. Medical professionals should administer antibiotics to the baby upon the baby’s birth. And with the right medication, the baby should be able to resist the infection. However, this wasn’t the case as the baby was given another drug that proved ineffective.

The baby was also starved of oxygen during childbirth after medical professionals failed to monitor his heartbeat correctly. As a result, the baby ended up being born with brain damage.

When the medical staff diagnosed the baby with sepsis, it was already too late. The baby suffered seizures and a haemorrhage that flooded his lungs with blood. Majewska’s baby died when he was five days old.

“It is deeply concerning that it wasn’t just one thing, but a catalogue of errors, which caused this tragic death,” said David Thomas, who is representing Majewska’s case.

“It is important that the hospital trust looks closely at what went wrong and what can be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Patrycja has been through a terrible ordeal and has lost everything she held dear.”

Stolen future

Newborn Aleksander’s death deeply bereaved his mother. This caused Majewska to split with the father of her child and partner of ten years because the stress of losing their child was too great to bear.

“What happened is always on my mind. I had a future and they have stolen that from me. It feels like they have destroyed my life,” she said.

The incident pushed the hospital to review its staff and protocols and eventually make changes in the hospital processes. But Majewska is still suing the hospital to make sure no mother and child will ever go through the same ordeal.

Majewska was originally from Poland and has since moved to the UK four years ago.

Grieving, she said “All they had been telling me all the time was that the baby was happy and fine. I just wanted to scream. I knew something was wrong. It was obvious but they didn’t seem to care until it was too late.”

“They took away the tubes and he slowly died in front of me. It was so sad. My partner and I trusted them as they were the professionals and they let us down in the worst way possible,” she added.

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How to spot sepsis in newborns

The cause of sepsis in newborn babies is usually bacteria. Premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit are at high risk because of their underdeveloped immune systems. Incisions made on babies’ skin (for IV lines, catheters, and tubes) can be an entry point for bacteria and cause infection.

In cases like Majewska’s, there’s a high risk of infection resulting in sepsis when one or more of the following happens:

  • Maternal fever during labour
  • An infection in the uterus or placenta
  • Premature rupture of the amniotic sac (before 37 weeks of gestation)
  • Rupture of the amniotic sac very early in labour (18 hours or more before delivery)

You can spot sepsis in newborn babies when any of the following signs are present:

  • Rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
  • Drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Unable to eat, reduced appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decreased tone (floppiness)
  • Changes in heart rate — either faster than normal (early sepsis) or much slower than usual (late sepsis, usually associated with shock)
  • Periods when the baby seems to stop breathing for more than 10 seconds
  • Change in skin color — becoming pale, patchy, and/or blue
  • Jaundice (when the skin and eyes look yellow)
  • Rash
  • Peeing less than usual
  • Bulging or fullness of the soft spot on the baby’s head 

Hospital statement

Sepsis in newborn babies is a harrowing ordeal, and it’s even worse when it happens under a hospital’s watch. Professor Meghana Pandit, Chief Medical Officer and Deputy CEO at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust released a statement following the incident.

“We would like to apologise unreservedly to Ms Majewska and her family for the distress that they have suffered,” she said.

“We recognise that there were a number of omissions in our care of Ms Majewska and her baby Aleksander in February 2016. This tragic incident has been fully investigated, and we have made changes as a result, including introducing mandatory sepsis training for all our maternity staff and increasing access to paediatric radiology reporting.”

“We appreciate that this will continue to be an incredibly difficult time for the family, and our heartfelt sympathies are with them.”

Also Read: Unpumped breast milk can lead to a serious blood infection sepsis