Bo'ness mum hopes toddler's tragic death highlights danger of sepsis

The tragic story of a three-year-old girl who died of sepsis after being told by doctors she had a tummy bug is now being told to highlight the real life-threatening dangers of the condition.

By James Trimble
Monday, 13th September 2021, 3:05 pm

Harper Aitken was killed by sepsis in less than 36 hours.

Now her mum Lori Mullen, from Bo’ness, hopes her death will be able to help raise awareness of the condition which robbed her of her daughter on March 8, 2019.

Lori (36), from Bo’ness, said: “Harper was a healthy, feisty, little girl who loved animals, being outside getting muddy and playing with her big brother, Cayden. She loved to dance and her favourite singer was Ed Sheeran who we played at her funeral.

Harper Aitken tragically passed away in 2019, aged three.

“On March 7 last year, she woke up with a fever but was otherwise okay. I work locally and when I got home that afternoon her grandparents told me she had been sick an hour previously.

"I checked her over and found her fever was higher and she had a rash on her tummy. I put a glass over it and it didn’t disappear so I called an ambulance.”

When the paramedics arrived, Harper’s temperature was 41.5° and she was taken to Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert.

Lori said the doctor who examined Harper thought she had a urine infection so a sample was required. Harper had diarrhoea while giving the sample and had perked up.

Harper Aitken died from the condition known as sepsis

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Lori said the doctor assumed she was suffering from a tummy bug, her rash had faded, she was drinking lots of fluids and was released.

She said no checks were made for sepsis, which happens when your immune system overreacts to an infection and starts to damage your body's own tissues and organs.

Lori added: “At home next day Harper was running to the toilet as a normal child with a tummy bug but that afternoon, although alert and watching her programmes, we noticed small blue dots on her hands and legs and her lips were going blue.

“I rushed her to our local GP who recognised the symptoms of sepsis, gave her penicillin and called for an ambulance which arrived quickly and took her back to hospital.

“Her legs were drilled into to get fluids directly into her body and a decision was made to put her in a coma, but her heart stopped as they tried to do so and she never revived despite desperate efforts by the medical staff.

"My baby girl was gone – from her fever starting to the time of her death wasn’t even 36 hours.”

World Sepsis Day, which was established in 2012 by the Global Sepsis Alliance charity, takes place on September 13 every year and is part of the UK-wide Sepsis Awareness Month.

The day is a chance for people to share stories about their loved ones and raise awareness of sepsis and its symptoms.

Lori said: “I want Harper’s death to change things at A&E units. Sepsis was never suggested but if it had been, Harper might still be here. Sepsis was never mentioned when Harper was seen at hospital for the first time on the day before she died and, therefore, no checks were made for it.

"There has since been a review at the hospital about this following an investigation.”

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