Belfast Telegraph

Allergic reaction to antibiotic 'led to death of Leona Morrow-McKitterick' in Derry hospital

Tragedy: Leona Morrow-McKitterick
Tragedy: Leona Morrow-McKitterick
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A woman whose health was already deteriorating due to sepsis had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic that led to her death, the Coroner's Court has heard.

Leona Morrow-McKitterick (38) from the Waterside area of Londonderry went to Altnagelvin Hospital's A&E department on November 16, 2017, with a soaring temperature and abdominal tenderness.

Eight days earlier she had undergone surgery to remove her womb at Belfast City Hospital.

Coroner Joe McCrisken heard how she was admitted to Altnagelvin's gynaecology ward where her condition continued to deteriorate over the course of the following day.

Staff on the ward suspected she was developing sepsis - the serious complication of an infection that can lead to multiple organ failure and death. They had been monitoring her condition in accordance with the protocol for treating sepsis, which includes antibiotics.

After a handover meeting at 5pm on November 17, consultant Dr Sandra McNeill ordered teicoplanin to be given to Mrs Morrow-McKitterick. This is an antibiotic commonly used in cases where patients are allergic to penicillin, as she was.

Five minutes after this antibiotic was administered, Mrs Morrow-McKitterick's condition deteriorated further at a rapid pace and she passed away in theatre, where she had been taken to try and stabilise her.

Giving evidence, Dr Rona Anderson said she received a "fast bleep" - an urgent call to the ward - five minutes after the antibiotic had been administered.

Dr Anderson said when she saw how rapidly the patient was deteriorating she called for help because she knew "we needed more hands to help treat" her.

Dr Anderson told the court that given her deterioration since the antibiotic was administered, she checked for classic symptoms of allergic reaction to the drug, but Mrs Morrow-McKitterick didn't have any.

However, Dr Anderson ordered adrenaline and steroids, which are used to treat people in anaphylactic shock.

Mrs Morrow-McKitterick did not respond to the drugs and continued to get worse. She was then taken to theatre.

While in theatre, medical staff including surgeon Dr Michael Harron performed an operation to see what was the cause of the suspected sepsis.

Dr Harron said that while he didn't find the organs in the damaged condition he was expecting, he did find 250-300 millilitres of "turbid" (cloudy) fluid.

He said this "was a sign that something is going wrong" and he thought the patient had gone into septic shock.

Dr McNeill told the court she didn't consider Mrs Morrow-McKitterick had an allergic reaction because she did not respond to the treatment for it.

As a result, she discounted it as a factor in her death when she was reporting it to the Coroner's Office.

But three expert witnesses, Dr Gerard Glynn, a Dr McIvor and Dr Paul Weir, who were part of a serious adverse incident investigation carried out into the death, concurred that it was a combination of an allergic reaction to the antibiotic and sepsis that killed her.

The inquest continues.

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