When her father took her to hospital, Charlotte had a temperature of more than 39 degrees, had vomited and had a high heart rate. She also had leg pain and her father described her as drowsy and behaving differently. All these symptoms, according to NICE guidelines, should have immediately raised a red flag for sepsis (blood poisoning) in children under five.
In the hospital's own Serious Incident Report, a treating doctor said he was not aware that limb pain was associated with meningococcal sepsis and had therefore not reported it to a senior doctor.
Despite being marked as high risk on arrival, Charlotte was not seen by a senior doctor/consultant and no blood or urine tests were taken. She was given paracetamol and discharged home.
Charlotte's condition deteriorated back at home and her parents took her back to A&E a few hours later very concerned about a rash and fever. Meningococcal sepsis was finally identified and her parents were told she was seriously ill. She was intubated before being transferred by ambulance to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit of Southampton Hospital.
Her parents were told it was touch and go as to whether she would survive at all and remained by her bedside. She suffered multi-organ failure. She had to endure numerous surgical procedures to bring the infection under control including multiple debridement and skin grafting procedures.
Two months later, she underwent her first set of amputations followed by revision procedures leading to above knee amputation of both legs and above elbow amputation of both arms.
She also caught Group A streptococcal sepsis and C-Difficile infection while in hospital. She remained in hospital for 14 months before being discharged home with a gastrostomy and colostomy that was reversed some months later.
She remains with significant scarring all over her body and will require further surgical treatment to manage her injuries as she grows. Her and her family's lives have been devastated by her injuries but Charlotte is a remarkable girl, determined to make the best of her life.
The claim against the hospital was that had she been treated urgently with antibiotics and fluids, as per sepsis guidelines, she would not have been so seriously unwell and would have avoided undergoing any amputations of her limbs.
Following admission of liability by Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, Deborah obtained a substantial interim payment of compensation monies so that Charlotte could begin to learn to walk with prosthetic limbs and purchase care, aids and equipment to assist her. She is also learning to use upper limb prosthetics and can now play chess using them.
Charlotte is a truly remarkable girl who, supported by her parents, wants to use prosthetics to access leisure and sporting activities. Settlement will allow Charlotte the level of care and support to help her to live her best possible life.
The case settled at the end of 2022 for a capitalised sum in the region of £39m, with the majority of settlement in the form of annual payments for life for care and prosthetics.
The approval hearing in the courts of this settlement was widely reported in the press, including BBC, ITV and Sky News.
'Extraordinarily brave' girl gets multimillion-pound settlement after losing all four limbs | UK News | Sky News
Charlotte's parents said:
'We are thankful to have Deborah for Charlotte's case. Deborah has worked diligently in Charlotte's best interest. She has advised and guided us appropriately keeping us in the right direction and ensuring we understand and are happy. Her level of support was exemplary. She has worked kindly and patiently with us as a family and is very supportive and understanding.
'Her timely and meticulous work has led this case with a satisfactory outcome in our case. Charlotte would be able to have the support that she needs to lead a better life.'
Deborah was assisted by Gabriella Gooday. Helen Thompson conducted the initial liability investigations. Counsel was Elizabeth Anne Gumbel KC.
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