A father-of-one who thought he was battling flu was found dead in bed from sepsis just 10 hours after he was diagnosed with a chest infection and sent home with antibiotics.
Paul Hardy, 35, from Biddulph in Staffordshire, was discovered by his wife, Rachel, as she put their nine-year-old daughter to bed.
North Staffordshire Coroner’s Court was told Mr Hardy had twice visited doctors in four days after becoming ill with flu symptoms.
However, medical tests after he died found Mr Hardy had sepsis, also known as septicaemia or blood poisoning, triggered by streptococcus pneumonia.
His family believe ‘lessons can be learned’ from Mr Hardy’s death and are considering legal action as to whether anything could have been done to prevent it.
Following yesterday’s inquest, Mrs Hardy, 35, said: ‘I am utterly devastated by Paul’s death and so is my daughter and we loved him immensely.
‘It is still hard to believe that he is gone and incredibly difficult to come to terms with the fact that I have lost my dear husband, who I expected to grow old with, and Gabriella has lost her doting father.’
She added: ‘While nothing will bring Paul back, it is vital that patient safety and care is improved so that what happened to Paul never happens to other families.’
At his first appointment with a nurse practitioner on Friday February 17, the inquest heard Mr Hardy was not showing signs of infection and his illness was thought to be a virus.
He was advised to rest and take over-the-counter remedies and went to bed believing he had flu.
However his condition worsened over the weekend with his symptoms including high temperature, a chesty cough, aches and vomiting and diarrhoea.
On Monday February 20, he returned to the surgery and saw a different nurse practitioner, who checked his temperature, heart rate, oxygen levels and listened to his chest.
The nurse diagnosed a chest infection, prescribed antibiotics and referred Mr Hardy, who was asthmatic, for a chest x-ray at a walk-in centre.
The nurse told the inquest: ‘When I saw him he did not show sepsis symptoms. I understood he was going to go for the x-ray straight away.’
But Mrs Hardy said she and her husband were advised he could not be x-rayed until his temperature had gone down, and he felt too unwell to go right away.
Instead they returned home and he went to bed.
Mrs Hardy said: ‘He was restless. At 6pm I took him some food. I propped him up and fed it to him.’
After leaving him to rest, she returned to their room at 8.10pm.
‘When I walked in I knew he wasn’t breathing,’ she said. ‘He was lay there like he was asleep. I rang an ambulance and his mum and I started CPR.’
Mr Hardy was pronounced dead at 8.48pm.
A post-mortem examination revealed he had an abscess on his lung, which was partly collapsed. The cause of death was given as sepsis due to streptococcus pneumonia with abscess formation.
Sepsis sees the body’s immune system go into overdrive as it tries to fight an infection, reducing the blood supply to vital organs. Without quick treatment, it can lead to multiple organ failure and death.
Biddulph doctors senior partner Dr Philip Turner described Paul’s death as a ‘tragic, tragic case’.
He said: ‘The evidence suggests it was a streptococcal infection and it was very progressively aggressive. I can’t see anything obvious that my colleagues haven’t done that I think they should have.’
All front-line surgery staff have received sepsis training since Mr Hardy’s death.
North Staffordshire coroner Ian Smith said he believed the sepsis and Paul’s collapsed lung had developed after he had been seen by the nurse on February 20.
He said: ‘My reading of the situation is that, at that time, he didn’t have the abscess formation to the extent it was later, he didn’t have the collapsed lung. That must have occurred afterwards.
‘He was still sitting up and eating, albeit supported, at 6pm. He went to sleep and a very significant event occurred which took his life. I don’t think it is right to criticise anyone for what happened.’
Mr Smith also noted that Mr Hardy’s blood pressure was not checked by the nurses, but said he did not believe it would have made a difference.
The family lawyer’s Margaret Ryan said: ‘The inquest into Paul’s death has highlighted issues where we feel lessons can be learned.
‘Communication appears to have been an issue, particularly regarding the urgent need for the x-ray.
‘It’s important that communication with patients is absolutely clear, and that the patient is made fully aware of the need for further treatment, to avoid a situation like this reoccurring.
‘We are looking into whether there is a civil claim as to whether anything could have been done to prevent Paul’s death.
Sepsis kills more people than breast and bowel cancer combined, with 44,000 deaths every year.
Signs of sepsis include slurred speech, extreme shivering, muscle pain , nd breathlessness. Anyone with any of these symptoms should seek medical help urgently.
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