Two-month-old dies of meningitis after doctors send her home diagnosing it as constipation

The doctors at Royal Hospital for Sick Children told Amber Rafferty's mum Veronica that it was nothing to worry about — just constipation. Amber died the following day.

Two-month-old dies of meningitis after doctors send her home diagnosing it as constipation

Two-month-old Amber Rafferty's parents took her to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh after she got ill. Her 25-year-old mother Veronica was told by doctors that it was nothing to be worried about and diagnosed the baby with constipation. Tragically, the next day, little Amber died of meningitis. The Daily Report reported that the devastated parents have accused the National Health Service (NHS) of carelessness.

Veronica told the publication, "I woke up and Amber was in her Moses basket but she wasn’t breathing. I had been taught first aid because she’s a premature baby so I started doing CPR. She was taken away by ambulance and we followed in a police car. It was the worst day of our lives."

Scott, the baby's 33-year-old father, added, "I was getting ready to go out to work and I heard Veronica screaming. The day before, we were told Amber was constipated, but she was actually dying. She had meningitis and was in the early stages. They didn’t even keep her overnight. If she had been, our baby daughter might still be alive."

Two-month-old Amber Rafferty was sent home with a wrong diagnosis resulting in her death (Pexels)
Two-month-old Amber Rafferty was sent home with a wrong diagnosis resulting in her death (Pexels)

After Amber was taken to the hospital she was treated with large doses of antibiotics but the baby's heart was too fragile to make it. "I couldn’t bring myself to turn off the life support machines. It was so traumatic. I still can’t believe she’s gone," said the heartbroken mother.

Amber was born on February 16 and was severely premature. She had been born in 28 weeks. She weighed 3lb, while the normal weight of a newborn is supposed to be an average of 7.5lb. "She was so tiny when she was born. But she was breathing fine on her own and she didn’t need oxygen. She was our first baby and my only child. My pregnancy was good. I had gestational diabetes but I was feeling well. There was nothing worrying me. Then, at 27 weeks and five days, I had some contractions," Veronica revealed.

She added, "She was perfect. She had to spend time in the neonatal unit but she was a fighter. I’d get the bus every day to see her and care for her. She was doing really well and was putting on weight."

Veronica's daughter finally came home in April but just nine days later became ill again. After two days, she decided to go see the doctor after calling NH24. "I took Amber to the doctor at 8.30 am but they told me the next available appointment was 11.40 am. I was advised if I felt it was an emergency to take her to A&E. So I did."

At the hospital, she met a nurse who was concerned about Amber's fast heart rate. "The nurse said she thought Amber had tachycardia and we were waiting to see a doctor. I explained to the doctor that she wasn’t well and I was worried about her not having any bowel movements. He assessed her and saw a spot on her chest and asked how long it had been there. I said I’d never seen it before."

She added, "Her heart rate was still up and they asked me to try a feed. She took a feed and had a bowel movement. They told me Amber was fine, that it was better to be safe than sorry. I trusted them and she had started to settle down. The doctor assured me her heart rate had been high as she was unsettled."

Scott Rafferty, the baby's father, reportedly wants to pursue legal action against NHS Lothian. (Pexels)
Scott Rafferty, the baby's father, reportedly wants to pursue legal action against NHS Lothian. (Pexels)

It was much later that Veronica found out that the doctors had suspected the possibility of Amber having an infection but decided not to test her. "I’m not a doctor but if they had said to me there might be an infection, I would’ve said I wanted her tested. I didn’t know until it was too late."

The parents are so distraught by her death, it's also causing a rift in their less than two-year-old marriage. "Amber’s death has put a strain on our relationship. We are trying to work through it but we don’t live in the same house anymore. It has been a nightmare. I can’t put into words how awful it feels."

Scott reportedly wants to pursue legal action against NHS Lothian. "It’s difficult. They did say sorry to us and they agree they could have done more but it’s not good enough. NHS Lothian had their investigation and have come to the conclusion that they’ve done nothing wrong. I completely disagree. I just want to save another family the heartbreak of losing a child due to negligence," he said.

The premature infant passed away in May, but the parents are now speaking up after an NHS Lothian internal investigation concluded that the staff had nothing to do with the death. The report said that it "did not identify modifications of care delivered that could reasonably be expected to have prevented the death." However, the health board has also added some new rules on how to deal with premature babies when they are brought in. The doctor will have to observe the baby for the night. 

Tracey Gillies, medical director of NHS Lothian, said, "The death of a child is tragic and I offer my sincere condolences to the family of Amber Rafferty. Following a full investigation, which concluded that appropriate care was provided, members of our senior clinical team met with the family and a follow-up meeting has been offered."