The parents of a ‘perfect’ daughter who died in her sleep fear a routine brain scan could have saved her life.
Lauren Walker, aged 13, of Richmond, Sheffield, died three weeks after starting to suffer with severe headaches which medics treated as migraines.
But an inquest into her death heard the City School pupil actually had hydrocephalus – a build-up of fluid on the brain – after being born with an undiagnosed defect which meant it was unable to drain away.
The condition caused pressure to build in her head, and Luiz Peres, the pathologist who carried out a post-mortem examination, said the condition could have been picked up with a CT or MRI scan and treated with surgery.
He said Lauren suffered a fatal gastric haemorrhage, possibly caused by a combination of painkillers to relieve her headaches and her brain condition, which caused some ulceration of her stomach lining.
Lauren’s father, Mark Walker, who at times was overcome with emotion during yesterday’s inquest, said in a statement read out at the hearing: “We are all devastated by Lauren’s death, and would like to know if Lauren would still be here today if she’d had a brain scan.
“It makes it more difficult to deal with.”
Lauren’s mum, Theresa Flint, who spoke movingly about her beloved daughter, revealed she had comforted Lauren on the night she died after the youngster complained of a headache. She placed a cool flannel on her head and remained at her side until she fell asleep.
When she checked on her daughter the following morning last October she found her unresponsive.
Lauren’s devastated dad battled in vain to revive her but she could not be saved.
He said that, three weeks earlier, when Lauren first fell ill and an ambulance was called, she had a headache and slurred speech.
He said he told Lauren’s mum at the time she ‘needed a scan’.
The inquest heard it was never carried out.
A trainee doctor and a consultant at Sheffield Children’s Hospital both told the inquest they agreed a scan could have helped with diagnosis.
Dr Katharine Nunn and Mr Chris Fitzsimmons, who worked in A&E when Lauren was first taken to hospital on September 25, said they decided to admit her and referred her to the inpatient paediatric team.
Both said although they discussed the possibility of a scan, neither told the paediatric team of their thoughts.
Mr Fitzsimmons, a consultant in paediatric emergency medicine, said: “My expectation was they probably would scan Lauren, but it was not my place to tell them to.”
He said he felt ‘comfortable they were doing the right thing’ referring the case on.
Dr Nunn said she had considered a number of possible reasons for Lauren’s illness, including migraines, a brain tumour and trauma.
Following a second episode of illness the inquest heard Lauren went to see her GP, Dr Ngozi Anumba, at Woodhouse Health Centre, on October 8.
Dr Anumba said she was told by Lauren and her mum that the teen had been diagnosed with migraine, so prescribed migraine prevention medication.
“My impression was it was a firm diagnosis,” said the doctor. “Her mum told me Lauren had had all the tests, and they told me it was migraine.
“I thought Lauren had had a scan - I didn’t know she had not had one.
“I didn’t get the impression there was any uncertainty about the diagnosis.”
Lauren’s mum, who sobbed as she described her daughter, said she was a member of a dance school and an athletics club, and ‘perfect’.
“She was doing well at school, she was athletic, she did lots of sports. She was a very kind, giving girl,” she said.
“She was just so kind, she had lots of friends.”
The inquest continues.