Sheffield boy’s fatal illness ‘missed’

Sheffield Children's Hospital, Western Bank
Sheffield Children's Hospital, Western Bank
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A boy aged six from Sheffield died of a fatal heart condition missed by doctors who initially diagnosed him only with pneumonia, an inquest heard.

George Cooke, from Norton, was admitted to Sheffield Children’s Hospital when he began coughing, wheezing and struggling to breathe.

The youngster, who had survived being born prematurely at 25 weeks and suffered from cerebral palsy, was given medication for pneumonia, and treatment with nebuliser sprays to clear his airway.

But within hours George’s condition deterioriated and his heart went into an abnormal rhythm, which led to his sudden death last September.

A post-mortem examination of George’s body revealed that the boy had myocarditis, a dangerous inflammation of the heart muscle, likely to have been brought on by a lung infection.

However, Dr Usha Niranjan, a specialist registrar at the children’s hospital who treated George shortly before he died, told Sheffield Coroner’s Court that she believed the child ‘did not have any sign of heart failure’.

“I am aware of myocarditis but I have not got experience of treating anyone with it,” she said. “I have not seen another child with myocarditis.”

Dr Niranjan said she spoke to a consultant when George was put on ‘intensive monitoring’ about seven hours after arriving at the hospital, but the senior medic did not suggest any diagnosis other than pneumonia.

“She agreed with my management,” the specialist registrar added.

Dr Alan Gibson, director of neonatal services at the Jessop maternity wing, who treated George as a baby, said his cerebral palsy would make it more difficult for him to fight pneumonia.

“Cerebral palsy does not make it more likely to get an infection, it’s more that there is a difficulty dealing with that infection once it develops,” he said. “I have never encountered a case of myocarditis in an ex-premature baby before.”

The inquest continues.