THE parents of a four-year-old boy who died while on a high-dependency care ward are suing the hospital.
Matthew’s mum Katie Oxley and dad Anthony Kenway, from Titchfield, are bringing a clinical negligence case against Southampton General Hospital in search of answers.
Their son Matthew Kenway died three days before his fifth birthday after suffering a cardiac arrest.
Two weeks ago, a coroner returned a narrative verdict which recommended further training for staff and a change in procedures of care on the ward.
The couple have now said that they intend to take their case further to ensure no other family goes through the same experience.
Matthew, who suffered from a rare disorder, had been admitted to Southampton General Hospital in December 2010. His parents initially thought he had a chest infection, which turned out to be a coin that Matthew had swallowed.
He underwent an operation to remove the 5p coin and another operation on his kidney, after he had complained of pain in his side.
Katie and Anthony have spoken of their ‘complete shock and devastation’ on hearing that Matthew had died.
Katie said: ‘We weren’t expecting it and we thought he just had a chest infection. It seemed to be going OK.
‘He seemed happy and we thought it was routine. Obviously we were worried.
‘When you have a child in for an operation you put your trust in the hospital. When he came out of the operation he seemed well, he had a few sweaty periods but we put it down to the anaesthetic.
‘He was still being his cheeky self when we left him. He was quite happy and laughing, talking and giving the thumbs-up.
‘Then at 3.30am we had a phonecall from the hospital. We rushed to the hospital, constantly phoning all the time, trying to find out what was going on. We got there by 3.45am and that’s when we walked in and saw him. We were distraught.’
Now the family have some serious questions as to how Matthew could deteriorate so quickly on a high-dependency ward.
Anthony said: ‘It’s hard to believe that in just a few hours he can go from watching DVDs in bed, sitting up and asking for magazines to having a cardiac arrest.
‘We were absolutely devastated. I don’t think there are any words that can express how we were feeling. Just pure devastation. Both of us went into complete shock.
‘Even with Matthew’s condition you don’t expect him to go before you. It’s not right for a child to go before their parent. It’s simply devastating.’
They both say that no other family should have to go through what they have and are calling for changes to be brought in to how many qualified nurses are on the high-dependency ward.
Anthony said: ‘It simply isn’t good enough. There are only four beds on that ward and there are meant to be two fully-trained nurses at any one time.’
On the night Matthew died, one of the nurses was on her break and an unqualified nurse was helping out.
When Matthew went into cardiac arrest this unqualified nurse ran to fetch a doctor instead of summoning a team by putting out a ‘crash call’ which led to a delay in Matthew receiving resuscitation treatment.
Katie said: ‘If you are working on a ward, especially a high-dependency ward, you should know proper protocol. They are dealing with children who are all in there for serious reasons. We feel let down.’
They will now pursue a case of clinical negligence and want answers as to why Matthew’s cardiac arrest went unnoticed for up to 20 minutes.
Anthony said: ‘If we can save one other family from going through what we have, then it will be worth it.’
MATTHEW’S family are being represented by
Patricia Wakeford, from Blake Lapthorn clinical negligence team in North Harbour, Portsmouth.
Mrs Wakeford said: ‘There remain grave question marks hanging over the quality of the care that Matthew received both in the run-up to his heart attack and in the crucial minutes that followed it.
‘Much of the circumstances that led to the tragic events of December 16, 2010, remain shrouded in uncertainty. There are troubling inconsistencies in the chain of events reported by the hospital’s official record and the staff that were on duty that night.
‘The conflicting reports do not fit together and leave an air of mystery about the timing of events that led to this young boy’s death.
‘How does a four-year-old boy have a cardiac arrest? And how can it come ‘out of the blue’ to experienced paediatric professionals who had been closely monitoring his wellbeing?
‘Why was it initially assumed to be equipment failure and precious minutes wasted as Matthew fought for life?
‘The family have other pressing questions too – why wasn’t the standard escalation process followed? They also want to know whether the cardiac monitors which were introduced as standard at the hospital after his death would have saved his life.
‘These are difficult questions for Southampton General Hospital to face but his family is entitled to get answers and we intend to press for them.’
MATTHEW Kenway’s death was the subject of a two-day inquest.
Coroner Keith Wiseman heard evidence from seven doctors, nurses and specialists who had been involved in the care of Matthew.
The complex nature of Matthew’s exisiting medical condition coupled with the unusual circumstances led the coroner to return a narrative verdict.
In his verdict, Mr Wiseman said: ‘In the early hours of December, 16, he had an entirely unexpected cardiac arrest; it was a number of minutes before this was recognised by nursing staff in close attendance because it was believed that a monitoring probe recording heart activity had either become separated from Matthew’s toe or had itself malfunctioned.’
Dr Michael Marsh, medical director at University Hospital Southampton said: ‘This was an extremely sad case and our thoughts remain with Matthew’s family.
‘We continue to offer his family our full support.’
Following Matthew’s case, the trust introduced heart monitoring for all children in the paediatric high dependency unit post-surgery.
MATTHEW had a rare disorder called congenital fibre-type disproportion, although this was not linked to his fatal cardiac arrest.
It meant that he had weak muscles and had to be supported by a ventilator to help him breathe. He also had to be fed through a tube.
Congenital fibre-type disproportion primarily affects skeletal muscles, causing muscle weakness known as myopathy.
It is a genetic condition caused by inheriting certain genes from both parents.
His parents have a 25 per cent chance of having a child with the disorder, although tests can now be performed when the foetus is just eight weeks old. Their four-month-old son Taylor does not have the condition.
The severity of congenital fibre-type disproportion varies widely and 75 per cent of sufferers, like Matthew, are expected to live for a normal lifespan.