The parents of a girl with autism are understandably distraught after the death of their daughter. The girl died of sepsis after the couple say doctors missed “several opportunities” to help her.
Rachel and Luke Bradford first rushed their daughter, Coco Rose Bradford, to the emergency room after she began passing liquid and bloody stools and could not hold down any fluids, but they were soon sent home with a probable diagnosis of gastroenteritis.
Coco’s condition did not improve. Her parents took her back to the hospital the next day, but doctors still felt the condition was not serious. The family begged for something more to be done for their daughter.
“Luke and I became more and more upset and concerned by the air of nonchalance of staff around her condition. It seemed they had no idea what was wrong with her,” Rachel says. “They did not recognise she was close to death. We were told she’d be fine and every time we asked we were told a stool sample was not needed or [had] been requested. I felt they always thought I was overreacting and worrying for nothing every time we asked questions.”
Coco continued to deteriorate and, after three days, she was transferred from Treliske Royal Cornwall Hospital to the Bristol Children’s Hospital. She died of multiple organ failure brought on by sepsis about a week after first being taken to the emergency room. According to the coroner, she suffered from Hemolytic uremic syndrome as a result of E. coli 157.
Ever since her daughter’s death in 2017, Rachel has been fighting to expose the truth about the medical staff’s failings that led to her daughter’s death.
“Every member of staff denied knowledge of bloody vomit and faeces, yet it is in all notes,” she says. “There were notes blaming Coco for being uncooperative. She was in a terrible amount of pain and dying in front of their eyes.”
Rachel and Luke say doctors and consultants missed several opportunities to order blood tests and stool samples and rehydrate the child with intravenous fluids.
“None were acted upon,” Rachel laments. “We do not accept human error should be a factor. This was failing of the most basic level of care.
She also says, “There have been tears, tears and more tears every single day. We just want the truth. You never know how it feels until it happens to you.”
Rachel also says hospital staff gave Coco a pain score of zero even though she was in excruciating pain, and they didn’t notice the signs of sepsis.
After making this “catalogue” of errors, Rachel says the hospital staff “unforgivably” tried to cover up their errors. They claimed Coco’s autism made her “uncooperative” and difficult to treat.
“We have never been given the full details of the clinical picture, and I’d like you to spare a thought how her sister Chelsea is feeling,” Rachel said at the inquest. “A fellow clinician [told] her not to worry and her little sister is fine. All concerns and questions around sepsis and e-coli [were] dismissed – when actually she was dying. Had we not persisted, and if Chelsea was not a healthcare professional, we would never know the truth of what happened to Coco. We are still waiting for the full truth, but I suspect that may never happen.”
At the time of this writing, an inquest into the case is still being held at Truro Coroner Court.
“To meet Coco was to love her. Her life with ours was getting better and better and she learned to communicate again,” Rachel recalls. “A week before she fell ill, I posted about how happy she was. She was in such a good place, and we finally felt she would have the life she deserved, and [she] was going to mainstream school full time.
“If I could have sat in the bed with her and die as well, I would have done. Coco was my absolute world, and living without her is almost too much to bear.
“Coco was a strong and healthy six-and-a-half-year-old. The effect on our family has been so deep and so divisive. Life will never be the same again.”
May Coco Rose rest in peace, along with all those who have died unnecessarily following medical missteps. We hope that justice can be served and that Coco’s story will serve as a catalyst for change so that future deaths can be prevented.Whizzco