I told doctors my baby was dying… they told me I was crying wolf: Hospital 'could have saved little girl if they'd listened'
21:24 GMT, 13 September 2012
A mother claims she was accused of ‘crying wolf’ when she pleaded with hospital staff to help her dying baby.
Paula Stevenson says medics ‘overlooked and neglected’ her daughter despite her telling them the girl was having trouble breathing.
Hayley Fullerton died of heart failure after both her lungs collapsed at Birmingham Children’s Hospital only weeks after her first birthday.
Pleas: Paula Stevenson says medics ignored her fears for her daughter Hayley, and 'overlooked and neglected' her
Mrs Stevenson, 41, became so desperate she even tried ‘bribing’ a nurse with a 100 shopping voucher to pay more attention to Hayley.
She told an inquest yesterday: ‘We were perceived as an “over concerned” family.
‘We were saying “Hayley’s dying” and they were saying “cry wolf” and “mother having a tantrum”.
‘Parents are the experts in the care of their child and they should be listened to.
‘I didn’t need a medical degree to know there was something wrong with my child but I needed someone with a medical degree to help her.’
Hayley was born with a blockage that meant her blood could not get from her heart to her lungs.
She was operated on shortly after her birth in Northern Ireland and sent for further surgery in Birmingham in October 2009.
The operation was a success but complications arose with her breathing afterwards and she died on November 11, 2009 after both lungs collapsed and her ‘exhausted’ heart failed.
The family say doctors ignored their pleas to move her into intensive care – which medics believe could have saved her life.
Miss Stevenson, who now lives in Australia with partner Bobby Fullerton and daughter Casey, was giving evidence in response to the internal investigation into Hayley’s death by Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
She said: ‘I’m just trying to honour Hayley’s memory. I do believe their response to me resulted in Hayley’s death. Nobody listened to me when she was dying and still no one is listening now she is dead.’
'I didn't need a medical degree to know something was wrong with my child'. Paula Stevenson with a picture of Hayley outside the inquest into her death being held at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall
Dr Philip Debenham, a consultant paediatrician at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, led the internal investigation into Hayley’s death.
Adam Weitzman, the family’s barrister, asked if he heard the term ‘cry wolf’ being used to describe Miss Stevenson’s concerns.
Dr Debenham said: ‘I cannot recollect that phrase being used.’ But he said Miss Stevenson’s repeated concerns about Hayley’s conditions did have an effect on her care.
He added: ‘The team would come in but could not see what the parents were reporting. Over time these prior experiences of going in to warnings and finding nothing were altering the decision-making process further down the line.’
Birmingham coroner Aidan Cotter criticised the trust’s investigation, saying his ‘way of finding out the facts’ was better.
The inquest, at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall, has heard expert evidence saying medical staff at the hospital ‘fell short’ in their standard of care for Hayley.
In a report, consultant paediatrician Dr Rob Ross Russell said Hayley ‘was significantly more ill than either medical or nursing staff recognised’.
He added: ‘This was recognised by her family who went to extreme measures to bring these concerns to the attention of the hospital but with no success.’
Hayley had previously been treated on the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and Ward 12 of the hospital before being moved to Ward 11 in the days before her death.
Paediatric intensive care expert Dr Duncan Macrae, of the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, said he felt care on Ward 11 fell short of what should be expected ‘in a number of important areas’.
Dr Macrae, who was a consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital for ten years, added: ‘No one seems to have asked why, so long after surgery, she continued to need oxygen and show signs of respiratory distress.’
The inquest has now adjourned before hearing submissions from the advocates on October 23.