‘None of us can believe she’s gone:’ Family’s shock at paramedic daughter’s sepsis death at 23

Paramedic Jessica Holbrook.
Paramedic Jessica Holbrook.

A South Yorkshire family are campaigning to raise awareness of sepsis following the death of an aspiring paramedic who died after contracting the condition.

Jessica Holbrook died at her grandmother’s house, aged 23, before she could be taken to Barnsley Hospital, five days after she first started complaining of a cold, sore throat and tickly cough.

Her heart-broken family, from Barnsley, are now using World Sepsis Day today to speak for the first time about their loss as well as their hope that an upcoming inquest, where the family will be supported by expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, will provide them with vital answers regarding Jessica’s death.

Dad, Leigh, 49, said: “Jessica was a beautiful, bubbly person, who was very hard-working. It was her dream to become a paramedic and she was working towards that career.

“Jessica was so well-loved, not only by her family but by all her friends. None of us still can believe she has gone and that she will never get to fulfil all the dreams and ambitions she had.”

Jessica, of Brierley, worked for Yorkshire Ambulance Service organising routine ambulance appointments, including at Barnsley Hospital as well as in Wath and Wombwell. When working at Barnsley Hospital she would often stay at the house of her grandmother, Barbara Robinson.

Jessica, an avid Barnsley FC fan and season ticket holder, started feeling unwell on Saturday, 9 December, last year. That day she attended an out of hours GP appointment.

Jessica had been staying at her grandmother’s house on 12 December for work the next day. However, she unusually phoned in sick and attended another out of hours GP appointment on the evening of 13 December.

Throughout the night Jessica’s condition deteriorated. On the morning of 14 December paramedics were called to Barbara’s house but she was pronounced dead before arriving at Barnsley Hospital.

Barbara, 76, said: “During the night Jessica was restless and struggled to sleep. At first she said she was tired and cold, but then was really hot and sweaty. Later that morning she was sick and so we phoned an ambulance.

“By this point it was just manic and all a blur. The paramedics who arrived were Jessica’s friends. They did everything they could but she didn’t make it.”

Jessica attended Barnsley home and away games with the East Dene Reds. Following her death, a minute’s applause in her memory was held in the 23rd minute of the team’s home game against Preston North End on Boxing Day.

A fundraiser is also being held in memory of Jess, who also enjoyed zumba and aerobics. The event at Royston Leisure Centre Civic Hall, on Friday, 21 September, is in aid of UK Sepsis Trust and Barnsley Hospital’s Tiny Hearts baby appeal. Further details of the event can be found at  www.facebook.com/events/298903880920118/

Jessica’s father Leigh, added: “All of Jessica’s family are so grateful for the love and support people have shown since she died.

“There is not a day goes by where all her family don’t miss her.

“Whilst nothing can bring her back, all we can hope for now is that others recognise the symptoms of sepsis before it’s too late. If by raising awareness of how dangerous sepsis can we save a life then Jessica’s death may not have been in vain.”

A two-day inquest into Jessica’s death is due to start at Sheffield Coroner’s Court on 1 October.

Sinead Rollinson-Hayes, specialist medical negligence and inquest solicitor at Irwin Mitchell who will be representing the family at the inquest, said: “Through our work we often see the devastating consequences that families can be left to face because of sepsis. Awareness of the signs of sepsis and early detection are key to beating it.

“Jessica’s family are still understandably devastated by her sudden death. They have a number of questions regarding Jessica’s death and hope that the upcoming inquest will provide them with the vital answers as to why she died.”

World Sepsis Day, is September 13, and aims to raise awareness of sepsis, which is a life threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs.

Sepsis leads to shock, multiple organ failure and, potentially, death especially if not recognised early and treated promptly. Signs include slurred speech, confusion, extreme shivering and muscle pain, passing no urine in a day, severe breathlessness and mottled or discoloured skin.

For more information visit  www.sepsistrust.org.