‘She should still be here with me’: Heartbroken mum’s pain as daughter dies after being ‘drastically let down’


A teenage girl with a rare form of leukaemia died after being ‘drastically let down’ by health professionals, her grieving mum says. Katie Wilkins had a ‘bright future ahead of her’ and dreamed of becoming a paramedic.

But the Warrington teenager sadly died aged just 14 on July 31, 2020, at Alder Hey children’s hospital following a cancer battle, the Liverpool Echo reports. At an inquest into her death this morning (May 23), heartbroken mum Jeanette Whitfield told the coroner: “She should still be here with me.”

Speaking at Liverpool Gerard Majella Courthouse, she added: “I lost a part of my heart that day, my best friend and her sister’s best friend. You put your trust and everything in the experts so you don’t expect to learn how drastically she was let down.”

READ MORE: Teen thief who forced family to cancel their holiday spared jail after ‘staying out of trouble’

The hearing heard how Katie, of Runcorn Road, began to complain of vaginal pains following a trip to London to see her sister after lockdown restrictions. After a trip to her GP showed clear water tests, her mum took the decision to take her to A&E in Warrington on June 30.

Ms Whitfield said scans by doctors showed a large abscess, which was ‘quite unusual’ for her age, and she was given a course of antibiotics with a follow up appointment. The hearing heard how Katie was in ‘waves of pain’ but the next week she was given another course of antibiotics as the ‘swelling hadn’t gone down’.

Katie Wilkins

However, after raising concerns about her daughter’s health, Katie was given a bed on Warrington’s paediatric ward on July 14 with the possibility of surgery to drain the abscess. But instead, she was taken for an MRI due to concerns about another lesion and discharged with a follow up appointment in August.

Ms Whitfield said no observations were done at that point as bloods would have been taken before surgery. The court heard how it was ‘possible’ had Katie had further observations in that time, further action could have been taken. But the hearing was told there were ‘no concerns’.

Giving evidence, Warrington’s Dr Thompson said that if they knew it was leukaemia they would have ‘done different things’. Mum Ms Whitfield said after discharge, from July 17, Katie’s temperature would be ‘up and down’ and she was still in a lot of pain, becoming ‘increasingly poorly’ – but she was told to take her daughter to A&E if there were concerns.

On July 26, Katie ‘took a turn for the worse’ when she collapsed in the kitchen. She was again taken to Warrington A&E before given a bed and blood tests were requested.

Ms Whitfield told the hearing that when she was informed the blood tests would be examined by the oncology department at Alder Hey she ‘started to realise what they were looking for’. It was shortly after the teenager was given a diagnosis of leukaemia with a ‘high risk of bleeds’ and eventually was transferred to Alder Hey once stabilised.

However she was given a ‘very good prognosis’ as the ‘biggest risk was the clotting’. When told she had cancer, Katie devastatingly asked her mum: “Am I going to die mummy?”

The teenager was later placed on the high dependency unit to continue around the clock care and her treatment plan, and on July 29 she was told she would be having an operation. But her health deteriorated ‘rapidly’ after being given morphine for a headache.

The court heard how she was ‘not with it’ and became ‘agitated’. Ms Whitfield said Katie was taken for a CT scan which showed she had a bleed and needed an operation to her brain, which ‘took nearly all day’.

Her mum added: “I didn’t recognise my daughter.” On July 30, Katie, who loved spending time with her family, was taken for a follow up scan to see if she had brain activity but after not responding to tests, the difficult decision was made to turn off the machines that were ‘keeping her alive’.

She died on July 31.

Alder Hey Children's Hospital
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

Speaking in court, Ms Whitfield went on to say that in September she was told an investigation would be launched and it came to light Katie had missed treatment before she had a bleed.

It was in October she raised her concerns at Warrington hospital over Katie’s treatment. She added: “I’ve struggled to come to terms with what was discovered. I can’t get my head around why it went badly wrong.”

At the start of the inquest, admissions were made by Alder Hey trust who said handover arrangements were not ‘sufficiently robust’ and there were ‘missed opportunities’ in relation to communication.

The hearing also heard that on July 28 and 29, there was a ‘lack of recognition of a revolving picture’ and a ‘missed opportunity’ to treat the teen ‘more aggressively’. It added a headache was a ‘red flag’ and should have been ‘acted upon immediately’.

Admissions were also made by Warrington and Halton hospital trust, read out to the court, which said there was a ‘missed opportunity’ for further investigation and a ‘missed opportunity’ to complete blood tests further to observations on July 21. They added an earlier provisional diagnosis may have been made ‘had Katie received a paediatric review of her symptoms’.

In a heart-breaking statement read out to the inquest Katie was described as lighting up ‘every room she entered with her witty humour and big smile’.

The statement added: “Anyone who knew Katie knew she had the biggest heart. She was always putting her friends and family before herself.”

The Bridgewater High School student had a real love for horse riding and ‘the more challenging the horse the better’. The teen would ride whether in ‘hail rain or snow’ as it was ‘always one of her happiest hours’.

The statement added: “She filled the home with laughter and mischief. She also had a very sensitive side to her nature.”

The inquest continues this week.

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