‘Party animal’ disabled daughter died after being ‘neglected’ in hospital
Devastated parents have paid tribute to their "party animal" daughter who died after a period of neglect hospital.
Despite suffering from Spina bifida , which left her in a wheelchair, Donna Campbell, from Wallsend, Tyneside, lived life to the max and didn't let her disability hold her back.
Donna lived independently and still went clubbing around Wallsend in her electric wheelchair and was well known in the area.
She died on June 22, 2019, after falling ill in January and died at the Royal Victoria Infirmary from a heart attack, aged just 36.
An inquest held on Wednesday at Newcastle Coroner's Court heard she had suffered a period of neglect in the months before her death, including claims her food and water was placed out of reach.
Paying tribute to his daughter Donna's dad Ian, 59, told ChronicleLive."She was a proper party animal.
"Everyone in Wallsend knew Donna. She never stopped.
"A bouncer at one of the clubs in Wallsend used to lift her up the stairs in her electric wheelchair.
"We raised all of the kids the same so that she would have to be independent – and she was.
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"She was a typical kid. Aside from the fact she couldn't walk, she was the same as every other child."
Donna grew up in Killingworth with dad Ian, mum Karen, 56, and siblings Amy, 33, and Lee, 35, before moving to Wallsend aged 16.
In later life she was a dedicated auntie to Jack, Ryan and Amy and "loved them to bits", spoiling them with new toys at every visit.
Her devastated family are now left wishing that her last months had been as great as the rest of her life.
Donna was admitted to Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital on January 19 and was diagnosed with sepsis.
She was also dehydrated and had low blood pressure and a urine infection so she was given antibiotics and fluids, an inquest into her death heard.
Emergency care Matron Lauraine Gibson gave evidence at the inquest at Newcastle Civic Centre and said when Donna was transferred to a different ward, the information on her fluid intake "wasn't very good".
The issues with paperwork and concerns about her care over the coming months led her family to put in a formal complaint.
Paula Shandran, head of safeguarding at Northumbria Healthcare Trust, also gave evidence and said she became involved in May following the complaint and an investigation was carried out.
When asked by Coroner Karen Dilks what the outcome was, Ms Shandran replied: "The conclusion was neglect.
"The nature was around recordings and fluid and Donna's food and drink being out of her reach."
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Dr Lewis Gray, a consultant anaesthetist in intensive care medicine at the RVI, said that Donna had a "very complex medical history that begins at birth".
He continued: "Her 36 years had been more difficult than most. She had significant surgeries from a young age to remove fluid from her brain."
Donna was also suffering from a perforated stomach ulcer when she was transferred to the RVI so there were concerns as she had a shunt in her abdomen from her brain which could have become infected and led to a risk of meningitis.
She had surgery to repair the ulcer and divert the shunt to the outside of her body which was later put back when she was better.
Donna was discharged to the Walkergate Hospital on Benfield Road in May to begin rehabilitation to gain her independence back.
Donna was checked on shortly after 8am and found unresponsive.
Dr Gray said that staff performed chest compressions for 35 minutes before she arrived at the RVI by ambulance and was placed on 100% oxygen where she regained her pulse.
Extensive investigations were carried out but they did not find a "clear and obvious cause" for the cardiac arrest. Dr Gray added: "It was highly unpredicted".
Dr Laura Graham, a consultant in rehabilitation medicine at Walkergate Hospital, said at the inquest that in the lead up to her cardiac arrest, Donna had been "progressing really well" adding: "I was really pleased with how she was progressing.
"She was able to be up and about more. She went out to Jesmond Dene and went shopping with therapy staff. There was nothing to indicate the event that happened."
Donna's family expressed concern that she had been feeling very fatigued in the days leading up to her death and was falling asleep very early.
Dr Graham confirmed that extra checks had been done the night before her cardiac arrest because of this but there was no cause for concern.
Coroner Dilks said: "Donna had a determined personality and was living her life as fully as she possibly could."
However, she had a complicated medical history and subsequently spent the last months of her life in hospital before her death.
She added: "The investigating pathologist Dr Colin Saysell has come to the conclusion that Donna suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and that she had been at risk of that because of a Chiari malformation which had an impact on the heart rhythm.
"Given that a Chiari malformation is a thing that has naturally occurred, the only conclusion that I can reach is that her death was from natural causes and that is what I am going to record.
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"If I may, I'd just like to extend to you my very sincere personal condolences on the loss of your daughter and your sister."
Donna's dad, speaking after the inquest about the complaints made at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, said: "She didn't deserve this. Her quality of life in that time could have been so much better.
"To hear that her food and water was out of her reach, it's like torture – and to hear them actually say the word 'neglect'.
"But we do want to say thank you to Dr Lewis Gray and Dr John Crossman from the RVI. They always picked up the pieces."
Her mum Karen added: "Donna would like to know that lessons have been learned but whether that happens or not, we don't know.
"It would be nice to see proof that lessons have been learned."
Paula Shandran, head of safeguarding adults and children at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We would like to sincerely apologise for the distress caused by the poor access Donna Campbell had to hydration and nutrition while receiving care at our trust.
“While Miss Campbell was not medically dehydrated, we acknowledge that we should have done more for her in this respect and we have taken learning from this case, and put measures in place, to ensure it does not happen to other patients in our care.
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“These measures include reinforcing the importance of good hydration and nutrition with staff, and the documentation thereof, and greater use of nutrition assistants on wards to encourage and prompt eating and drinking among patients at high risk of dehydration and poor nutrition.
“In addition, we are piloting the use of an innovative drinking system – the ‘water drop’ – which provides patients with independent access to drinks, therefore reducing the risk of dehydration.
“Finally, we would like to express our deepest sympathies to the family of Miss Campbell at this extremely difficult time.”
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