Heartbroken mother shares last moments of 14-month-old son to raise awareness about meningitis

Gaynor McConnell wants people to know a rash isn't always a sign of meningitis, as she lost her 14-month-old son to the deadly disease after staff missed signs 

Cayden-McConnell
Gaynor McConnell, 33, has released the final picture of her dying 14 month old son Cayden to raise awareness for meningitis Pic courtesy: Caters News Agency

A heartbroken mother has released the final picture of her dying 14-month-old son to raise awareness of meningitis.

Gaynor McConnell, 33, from Manchester, wants to show other parents the disease doesn’t always start with a mottled rash after she lost her son, Cayden, to it.

Despite her ordeal, she has decided to publicise the shocking image which shows him lifeless and hooked up to several life support machines.

Now, four years on, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has admitted care was below standard after they missed crucial warning signs early on.

The full-time mother, said: ‘I was watching him on the bed and he was lifeless, I knew straight away that something was wrong.

‘Since birth Cayden had battled viral infections and flu like symptoms, he’d even battled meningitis once before at four months old.

‘He was a real little fighter so when he started to become lethargic in February 2012, I never imagined he was going to die.

‘Just a few weeks before he was happy and smiling on the trampoline with me as we took photos together.

‘It was incredibly hard to share his final picture but I want to ensure other parents are aware of the symptoms and never take no for an answer.’

Cayden was diagnosed with spina bifida – a fault in the development of the spinal cord which leaves a gap or split in the spine – at birth.

He had an undiagnosed dermoid tumour in his spine, which his family were told was likely to have caused his two bouts of meningitis.

Now, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Addenbrooke’s, has admitted liability for Cayden’s death.

Gaynor McConnell
She wants to show other parents that meningitis doesn’t always start with a mottled rash after losing her son, Cayden, to the deadly disease Pic courtesy: Caters News Agency

Ms McConnell added: ‘I trusted the doctors and the specialists looking after Cayden as I thought they knew best, but everything in my gut instinct told me something was seriously wrong.

‘He was always ill, having colds and infections, but doctors said this was perfectly normal and just gave him antibiotics.

‘I was made to feel like he was just one of those babies that is often poorly and gets every bug and illness going around.

‘I’d already had two boys so knew that babies soon picked up illnesses, but I always felt something was wrong.

‘I was even told there was nothing to worry about with the lump at the bottom of his back, but I was never happy. A mum knows best.’

Cayden was first taken seriously ill and admitted to hospital at four-months-old after suffering from a fever and not feeding well.

Doctors recognised that an external lump at the base of his back had increased in size and meningitis was suspected and diagnosed.

Cayden fought the disease, but an MRI scan taken at the time showed an open passage running from the base of his spine to the area of his lump.

This is something that should have led doctors to take action at the earliest possible opportunity to prevent a further episode of meningitis, experts say.

As part of a legal claim against Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, it was alleged this should have led doctors to investigate and discover that Cayden had a dermoid tumour which needed removing.

He failed to improve and despite the tumour eventually being removed by surgery and excess fluid being drained from his brain, he suffered multiple fits over the following weeks.

Cayden remained in hospital for three months before being discharged home and dying on February 15, 2012.

Ms McConnell said: ‘I can never forgive the doctors for how badly they let Cayden down. It is disgusting.

‘Losing him was completely heart-breaking and it destroyed and changed two families for the rest of their lives.

‘I’m a different person now. It changes you as you can never be the same again. I don’t trust people in the same way I used to do.’

Renu Daly, specialist medical negligence solicitor at Hudgell Solicitors, said: ‘There were clear, basic failings in the care and treatment Cayden received at Addenbrook’s Hospital and this ultimately led to him contracting meningitis for a second time in his short life, which killed him.

‘The MRI scan taken in April 2011 after Cayden’s first episode of meningitis, at the age of four months, clearly showed him to have open tract.

‘They should have been aware there and then that there would have also been a dermoid tumour which needed to be removed to prevent further infection.

‘By the time Cayden attended hospital after contracting meningitis a second time, his chances of survival were virtually obsolete.

‘Had doctors performed as they should and taken steps which are basic in terms of handling this sort of situation, Cayden would still be with his family. He would have recently enjoyed his sixth birthday and Christmas with his mother and brothers.’

Ms McConnell and Cayden’s brothers Kye, 16, Tyler, 13, and Lacey, three, have since started a new life in the Manchester area, but there will always be a huge gap in their lives which can never be filled.

She added: ‘Losing Cayden has made me feel passionate about the need to better educate parents about meningitis and the many different strains of it, how to look out for them and how dangerous they can be.

‘Cayden had the warning signs which sadly the doctors ignored, the rash is often the final symptom and not the first like most parents think.

‘It’s why I’ve decided to share pictures of Cayden. He looked like any other boy but he was dying inside.

‘Hopefully these pictures will make all other parents think about what happened and not accept doctors dismissing their concerns.’

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has admitted the standard of care provided was below that expected.

They further admitted the second episode of meningitis, which ultimately proved fatal for Cayden, would have been prevented with better care.

A spokesperson for Cambridge University Hospitals said: ‘A formal apology has been made by the Trust to Cayden’s family and we are working closely with the family’s solicitor to reach a settlement.

‘An investigation was carried out and the care given to Cayden fell below the standard he was entitled to expect and led to a second episode of meningitis that sadly proved fatal in 2012.

‘We offer our sincere condolences to the family for their terrible loss.’

Source: Daily Mail