Toddler with chicken pox died in ambulance on way to hospital

Chesterfield coroners' court.
Chesterfield coroners' court.

A toddler who died in an ambulance on his way to hospital had an undetected lung condition caused by chicken pox.

Three-year-old John Andrew Kirkham had been seen by doctors and A&E staff at Stepping Hill Hospital before his death, an inquest heard.

A post mortem revealed the youngster suffered from lung problems which would have been caused by the chicken pox.

James Newman, assistant coroner for Derbyshire, opened the inquest today (Monday) at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court.

The court was told John was rushed to hospital after being seen by a doctor for a third time but died in the ambulance on the way to Macclesfield District General Hospital in March 2014.

Consultant histopathologist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, doctor Luiz Peres, who performed the post mortem, gave the cause of death as acute streptococcus bronchial pneumonia, believed to be a result from the chicken pox infection John was just getting over.

Mum Joanne Kirkham said: “I thought it was just chicken pox and I thought he was going to get better.”

The mum-of-two felt medical staff did not show enough concern for John’s condition, and said she struggled to get an appointment with a doctor the day her little boy died, the inquest heard.

Alan Jenkins, representing staff from Elmwood Medical Centre, said there were appointments with the nurse practitioner earlier in the day but Mrs Kirkham wanted to wait for a doctor.

In the weekend prior to his death John, who was described as boisterous and full of life by grandmother Shirley Bellfield, was quiet and not eating.

“It was very out of character for him,” said Shirley.

Shirley looked after John every Friday night and the registered child-minder had dealt with children with chicken pox before, the court heard.

She said: “Children tend to feel run down before the blisters start appearing but John was no better even when he was starting to heal.

“In the early hours of the morning he was really hot so I took his pyjamas off and watched him breathe.”

Toxicology reports from doctor Paul Smith showed that John only had therapeutic levels of painkillers and antihistamines in his blood.

Mrs Kirkham said just before returning to the surgery, John collapsed, not putting his hands out to stop himself.

She said: “I had felt reassured by the hospital and was told to come back if his condition got worse but he just wasn’t getting any better and I needed to get him seen.”

The inquest continues.