Southmead Hospital superbug: Mum of baby Oliver Hannon speaks of heartbreak
The mother of a premature baby who died in a hospital superbug outbreak has told of the heartbreaking moment her tiny son passed away in her arms.
Oliver Hannon was born at just 24 weeks but was making good progress at the neo-natal intensive care unit at Southmead Hospital in Bristol.
But he picked up the water-born bacteria pseudomonas – which also infected 12 other babies at the unit – and died just hours after doctors told his parents he was doing “fantastically”.
His mother Jenna Hannon, 24, told how she rushed back to the unit and arrived just in time to cradle her week-old son as he died.
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She is now taking legal action against the hospital, which has admitted the bug contributed to Oliver’s death and has put in new measures to prevent another outbreak.
Mum-of-two Jenna said: “We weren’t expecting it when he died. We were told he was doing really well. Then all of a sudden he went downhill. The doctors told me there was nothing more they could do and I just held him until he died in my arms. A doctor rang us up after he died and told us that he would still be here if he had not have got the infection and they didn’t expect it at all. It has been a major shock – I am heartbroken.”
Jenna was rushed to Southmead on August 17 after she experienced labour pains just 24 weeks into her pregnancy.
Oliver was safely delivered by caesarean section and immediately taken to the neo-natal intensive care unit.
He responded well to treatment and plans were made to transfer him to the Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton, which was closer to the couple’s home in Tidworth, Wiltshire. But Oliver’s condition suddenly deteriorated shortly after Jenna and husband Andrew, a Lance Corporal in the Kings Royal Hussars, were making their way home on August 24.
They received a phone call from the hospital telling them to come back – but by the time they arrived there was nothing doctors could do to save their son.
Jenna, who has another son Drew, three, and a daughter Abigail, 11 months, said: “We got the phone call to say he was deteriorating rapidly and turned around immediately. When we were about five minutes away from the hospital we got another phone call telling us they needed us back now.
“When we arrived they were performing CPR on him and then they told me that there was nothing more they could do. They just handed him to me and I held him in my arms until he died.”
They said that a few days later they received a phone call from a doctor who told them Oliver had died from a blood infection. He said the pseudomonas bacteria was the same as the bacteria which had lead to the deaths of four newborns at Belfast’s Royal Hospital in January.
Jenna said: “He said he was really sorry and it should never have happened. He told us that the only way Oliver could have caught the infection was through being in the neonatal unit.
“We were told that Oliver would still be here if he had not got the infection and they didn’t expect it at all. I’ve lost my little boy now. He was a right little pickle and a little rascal.”
The couple were only officially informed that Oliver had died of the bacteria just minutes before the hospital released a statement on Tuesday. They have now instructed lawyers to begin legal proceedings for compensation and are due to meet hospital staff.
Traces of the superbug – linked to a series of baby deaths across the UK – were found in the water system at the neo-natal unit.
Another 12 babies tested positive for the bacteria. One was treated for a minor infection, eight have been discharged with the all-clear but three remain in hospital being treated in isolation.
Dr Chris Burton of the North Bristol NHS Trust said: ‘‘In August a premature baby sadly died in Southmead Hospital neonatal intensive care unit and pseudomonas infection contributed to the death. In light of experience in other neonatal ICUs where this has happened, North Bristol NHS Trust immediately put in place measures to review infection control procedures in the unit and minimise the risk to other babies.
‘‘One measure has been to screen/test babies on the unit and since the first case, 12 have been found to have pseudomonas bacteria on the skin. On its own this does not cause illness or require treatment but presents a risk if bacteria gets into the blood stream.
‘‘One baby has had treatment for a minor infection but the others remain well and eight have been discharged home. Three babies with the bacteria on their skin remain in the unit but are being treated in isolation.
‘‘Pseudomonas bacteria have been found in the water supply in the neonatal ICU and this is the most common source when similar events have happened in other units.”
He added that strict infection control measures had been put in place and admissions to the unit had been reduced.
Dr Mark Evans of the South West (North) Health Protection Unit, said it had worked with the hospital following the outbreak.
He said: ‘‘Following the discovery of the bacteria, the HPA has provided advice and support to North Bristol NHS Trust to help protect the health of babies in the unit. The people most at risk are those with depleted immune systems such as cancer patients, people with severe burns and premature babies in neonatal units.”