Baby died after doctors sent him home on three occasions

A BABY who died suddenly after suffering a severe bout of chicken pox was sent home three times by doctors, despite the pleas of his worried parents, an inquest heard.

Lewis Mullins, who had just turned one, was examined by a GP at an NHS walk-in centre and then twice by hospital doctors within the space of three days.

His parents repeatedly told doctors their son was sick but they were only given an anti-viral drug and painkillers to treat the baby and he collapsed at home the next day.

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An expert in child protection who reviewed the case said that if the 12-month-old had been given antibiotics on the three occasions he was sent home he would probably have survived.

She also said the doctors concentrated too much on the chicken pox without looking for a secondary bacterial infection.

Lewis’ mother Jodie Conlay, 28, broke down in tears and told an inquest in Rotherham: “I just wished they had listened to me.”

A pathologist decided that Lewis died from pneumonia which was likely to have been caused by the chicken pox.

The hearing was told that Lewis fell ill with chicken pox after his four-year-old sister Lacey caught it and he came out in blisters on his face.

He had a temperature, had breathing problems and shaking episodes. “His face was swollen, it was like he had been in the ring with Mike Tyson,” his mother said.

She took Lewis to Rotherham’s NHS walk-in centre on Wednesday, March 30 last year and was told he had infected chicken pox.

Miss Conlay was sent home with an anti-viral drug to treat the chicken pox but the next day Lewis developed a different rash on his face and mouth and he began making grunting noises as if he was in pain.

Lewis’ mother rang NHS Direct and after the operator heard her son’s breathing over the phone an ambulance was called.

Despite the new rash spreading the anti-viral drug was stopped and Lewis was discharged with Ibuprofen and Paracetamol but was brought back again on Friday, April 1 after his parents thought he worsened.

He was then discharged for a second time with painkillers but was found lifeless by his grandmother Elaine Mullins at his home in Maltby, near Rotherham on the morning of Saturday, April 2.

Former lifeguard Mrs Mullins and three paramedics tried resuscitation for half an hour but could not revive Lewis. He was pronounced dead at hospital.

Mrs Mullins told the inquest: “When we got to the hospital the sister we saw on Friday was there. She said ‘Oh my God, it’s Lewis’. I was really mad as they shouldn’t have let him home.”

Lewis’ father Andrew Mullins, 32, said his son was discharged because the doctors thought they could do nothing more than the parents were already doing for their son at home.

Dr Paul Hercock, an emergency medical registrar at Rotherham Hospital, said he found Lewis had breathing problems but was puzzled as his chest was clear. He felt Lewis should be admitted for observations.

But senior house officer Dr Dhanitha Srivatsa, called by Dr Hercock, pronounced Lewis a “very happy smiling child” and after discussions with locum registrar Dr Sarah McCullough the child was discharged.

When Lewis was re-admitted on April 1, Dr Teresa Hamilton, who was training in paediatrics, said she found him “generally well, he wasn’t crying or irritable.” She said she did not find any sign of the new rash.

She discussed the case with a senior house officer and deputy ward manager and Lewis was discharged for a second time.

Dr Kate Ward, a consultant paediatrician and child protection expert who was asked to give an overview, said it was not well known that chicken pox carries a significant risk of invasive infections.

Asked by Rotherham coroner Nicola Mundy if earlier intervention could have prevented Lewis’ death, Dr Ward said if antibiotics had been given Lewis would have survived.

The hearing continues.