Chicken pox tragedy: South Yorkshire baby could have been saved, rules coroner

I can't believe he's no longer with us: Parents left distraught knowing  that their son Lewis Mullins could have been saved.
I can't believe he's no longer with us: Parents left distraught knowing that their son Lewis Mullins could have been saved.
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DOCTORS missed three chances to save a little boy who died after developing an infection while suffering chicken pox, a coroner has ruled, writes Polly Rippon.

Lewis Mullins, aged one, was sent home three times in three days by medics who failed to give him antibiotics.

Rotherham coroner Nicola Mundy said: “Had appropriate treatment been given on each of those three occasions it is likely Lewis would have survived.”

Recording a narrative verdict, she said: “A number of nurses and doctors were involved in Lewis’ care over a short period but nobody looked at the entire picture.

“Ultimately this led to Lewis’ death.”

His parents Jodie Conlay, 28, and Andrew Mullins, 32, wept in court.

Afterwards Jodie said: “I still can’t believe Lewis is no longer with us. He was such a content baby, a real happy chappie.

“We have pictures from his first birthday just days before he became ill. His big sister keeps telling me she misses her little brother. It has hit myself and Andrew very hard.”

She added: “Hearing that the treatment could have been different, and could have saved his life, was completely soul destroying.

“I just hope now changes can be made, and more notice taken of parents’ concerns, to prevent others having to go through the heartache we have.”

Lewis’ parents want to set up a campaign to get all children in the UK vaccinated against chicken pox.

Jodie said: “It’s part of routine childhood immunisations in the USA and Canada. Here, the vaccine is available, but it is not routinely offered by the NHS.

“I want the Government to consider introducing the vaccine to all children in the UK.

“I also think parents need to be given more information as to the serious complications that can arise from chicken pox.”

The court heard Lewis was examined by Dr Ali Kouchouk at Rotherham NHS walk-in centre, then twice by hospital doctors.

A form filled in by a triage nurse detailing his pain, temperature, shaking and breathing problems was not passed to Dr Kouchouk, who thought he was simply treating chicken pox rather than an infection.

The next day Lewis developed a rash and was admitted to Rotherham Hospital.

But none of the doctors gave Lewis blood tests or an X-ray which would have shown an infection. His medical records were not seen by doctors, and he was sent home.

He was readmitted next day but discharged again with painkillers, though his worried parents repeatedly told medics he was seriously ill.

Lewis died the next day, on April 2 last year, from pneumonia - likely to have been caused by the chicken pox, the court heard.

Dr Kate Ward, an expert in child protection, said he could have survived had he been given antibiotics.

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

Ms Mundy said she would write to the Lord Chancellor and the walk-in centre about their systems and their failure to pass on the medical questionnaire.

Rotherham Hospital has since implemented changes and all children with chicken pox are given antibiotics and physically examined within four hours of admission.

Ms Mundy said she would also write to the Department of Health to highlight Lewis’ case.