Experts give evidence on treatment of Lilli before she died

AN independent specialist will give evidence today into the quality of treatment provided by Nambour Hospital to Sunshine Coast six-year-old Lilli Sweet who died from a meningitis bacterial infection that caused swelling to her brain in 2013.

The four-day inquest before Coroner John Lock has attracted a collection of eight legal representatives for doctors, nurses, GPs and specialists who have been called to explain their roles in the lead up to Lilli's eventual death in Royal Children's Hospital Brisbane on August 27, 2013, two days after she first presented to Nambour Hospital.

Paediatrician and Clinical Geneticist Dr Stephen Withers of the Gold Coast has been called by Mr Lock to provide his independent assessment of the care Lilli received from the moment she presented to the hospital at around 11am on August 25, 2013.

Despite having an hereditary condition called spherocytosis which had required her spleen to be removed leaving her vulnerable to infection, Lilli waited two and a half hours before being seen by a doctor.

TRAGIC: Lilli Sweet's death is being investigated in an inquest.
TRAGIC: Lilli Sweet's death is being investigated in an inquest. Contributed

Her family had rushed her to hospital suffering the impacts of nausea, vomiting, headaches and neck pain.

She was treated eventually for viral gastroenteritis and admitted to a hospital bed at 5.15pm.

But it wasn't until just before 10pm that blood tests were conducted which showed white cell counts elevated to levels almost five times above normal that should have alerted medical staff to the danger she faced.

Even at that point if she had been administered the required antibiotics in sufficient dose she may be alive today.

That is a possibility that may be defined by Dr Withers' testimony today which could prove crucial in determining the adequacy of the care she received.

Crucially Lilli's pre-existing medical condition, which causes a shortage of red blood cells leading to anaemia, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) and an enlarged spleen, had been made known to hospital staff.

READ: Why did she die? Coast family in search for answers

The spleen was removed in 2011 so she would no longer have to endure ongoing blood transfusions and folic acid supplements, but she was left extremely susceptible to infections.

On August 26, 2013, still suffering a rash, high temperature and stiff neck and following the high white blood cell count identified by blood tests the previous evening doctors prescribed antibiotics for what they feared was severe bacterial meningitis.

The antibiotics did nothing to reduce Lilli's symptoms and, after she had a seizure she went into a coma and was flown to Brisbane's Royal Children's Hospital.

She died in her mother's arms shortly after her life support was removed on Tuesday, August 27, 2013.

Among witnesses giving evidence at the four-day inquest, which concludes Thursday, are Lilli's mother Joanne Sweet, 10 doctors, a nurse and a representative of the state Department of Health.

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