Northern Ireland mum dies after highly unusual reaction to antibiotic
We'll never get over it, says husband
The heartbroken husband of a Londonderry woman who died after a highly unusual reaction to an antibiotic given to treat sepsis has said her death was a nightmare that his family will never get over.
Giving evidence at an inquest at Coleraine Court into his wife Leona's death, Mark McKittrick told Coroner Joe McCrisken that the couple's three children, Kayleigh (20), Caden (13) and six-year-old Harry, had been left devastated.
The inquest found that Leona Morrow-McKittrick (38), from the Waterside, died on November 17, 2017, from sepsis of an unknown source and from an adverse reaction to a drug called teicoplanin, an antibiotic which is administered to people with an allergy to penicillin.
During the inquest it emerged that teicoplanin is used in the Western Health Trust around 12,000 times a month, but Mrs Morrow-McKittrick had the only known allergic reaction.
Mr McKittrick said he was devastated to discover six months after his wife's death that the reaction to the drug had been a factor in the tragedy because he had initially been told she died from sepsis.
The inquest heard that Mrs Morrow-McKittrick was taken to Altnagelvin Area Hospital on November 16, 2017, with abdominal tenderness and a spiking temperature.
She was admitted from A&E to the gynaecology ward, where staff suspected she had an infection, possibly from an operation to remove her womb performed nine days earlier at Belfast City Hospital.
Despite some improvement in her condition on the morning of November 17, she began to deteriorate, which led medics to suspect she had developed sepsis.
As part of the agreed treatment for sepsis, she was prescribed an antibiotic used for people who are allergic to penicillin, but within minutes her condition deteriorated rapidly to the point that she could not be saved.
Mr McKittrick told the inquest he received a telephone call from Altnagelvin on the evening of November 17 asking him to get to the hospital.
When he arrived on the ward and saw a number of people working on his wife, he was left "very concerned and in a state of shock".
Mr McKittrick can still recall little of what happened until the moment he was told at 10pm that his wife had passed away.
He said it was later that month he was told his wife had died from sepsis, and two months later that he was informed for the first time about "suspected anaphylactic shock".
The coroner said there was no way the staff at Altnagelvin could have known she would suffer the adverse reaction.
They were correct to administer the drug to her and had followed best practice in her treatment, but despite their efforts she could not be saved, he added.
Paying tribute to his wife, Mr McKittrick told the Belfast Telegraph: "Leona was everything to me and to our children.
"It has been so tough without her. Mentally, it has been a nightmare and we will never get over this.
"You never really know what you have until it is gone. Our lives have been devastated since Leona died and will never be the same without her.
"I am a lot more knowledgeable at the end of this inquest and I am grateful to the coroner for that.
"This was never about blame - it was about getting answers. But as the coroner said, there are things we will never get the answers to."