Friday, May 9, 2008

Boy, 10, who lost legs after doctors misdiagnose meningitis for chicken pox wins multi-million pound payout

A multi-million pound payout has been awarded to the family of a boy who lost both his legs to meningitis after a doctor said he had chicken pox and told his parents to give him Calpol and take him home.

The family of Ashley Cripps, now aged 10, have spoken of their harrowing eight-year fight for justice and compensation following the misdiagnosis of their son when he was only two-years-old.

Brave Ashley had to have both his legs amputated to save his life from the ravages of the deadly brain disease, six weeks after the hospital doctor made his potentially fatal misdiagnosis.

He has false legs which he courageously uses to get around, and to pursue his love of sports and activities including football, wheelchair basketball, trampolining, cycling and swimming.

Ashley's parents Jason and Cheryl, speaking after a High Court judge approved an NHS trust's settlement for damages, told how they took their son to an emergency doctor after he fell ill at home in November 1999.

He was immediately referred to the Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham, Kent but after a second opinion, a specialist said the toddler had chicken pox and told them to go home and give him Calpol.

The next morning the panic-stricken couple were awoken by Ashley screaming and vomiting at the family home in Rochester, Kent.

To their horror Ashley was covered in a horrific rash and had started fitting uncontrollably.

Mum-of-three Cheryl, 28, said: "He was purple from top to toe. He was screaming and when I put the bedroom light on he was screaming even more."

Dad Jason, 40, said: "I could see he was dying in my arms."

The couple rushed him back to Medway Maritime Hospital where a correct diagnosis of meningococcal meningitis, the most deadly strain, was made and he was admitted into intensive care.

Antibiotic treatment was started but it was too late and after being resuscitated three times he was transferred to Guy's Hospital in London by ambulance where he suffered a massive heart attack which nearly claimed his life.

He also suffered kidney failure.

Ashley was then in a critical condition for more than four weeks, slowly recovering his strength. But suddenly, two weeks later, his condition rapidly deteriorated and the onset of necrosis took hold of his limbs.

The devoted couple were told that if Ashley was to stand any chance of survival, doctors would have to amputate both his legs below the knee - and possibly his arms as well (that did not happen).

Recalling the moment they were told the devastating news, Cheryl said: "We were told the consultants needed a decision and they needed it now.

"It was the worst thing that we have ever had to face, but it took us just 10 minutes to give them go ahead."

Last week Medway NHS Trust agreed to settle the case on the basis it was 90 per cent liable for Ashley's condition due to the initial misdiagnosis.

The High Court was told that had Ashley been diagnosed correctly in the first instance and given antibiotics he would probably have made a full recovery.

Ashley sued the NHS trust through his mother. The amount of money he was awarded was kept confidential under the terms of the agreement, but sources close to the case confirmed it ran into several millions of pounds.

Mr Justice Owen approved the settlement. He said: "Ashley is a remarkably cheerful and positive little boy and that speaks volumes for the care given to him by his parents.

"They have shown a remarkable degree of devotion and they are to be greatly admired."

While Ashley's parents, who also have two daughters, Kiera, five, and Elli-Mae, two, concede that it was a "good result", they say no amount of money can repay for what has happened to their child.

Cheryl said: "The anger will never go away. I will now only go to the doctors with the children if I really have to."

Brave Ashley has been praised for his remarkable courage in the face of adversity by his teachers at Horsted Junior School in Chatham, Kent.

The Manchester United fanatic also enjoys swimming, playing wheelchair basketball and cycling on a specially adapted bike.

The family are currently in temporary accommodation while their house is being redesigned to suit Ashley's needs.

The family have already had a swimming pool and trampoline installed for their sports mad son and his sisters and now hope to spend the money on making his life as comfortable as possible.

Cheryl said: "It's been hell, but we have battled our way through the hard times by sticking together as a family."

The family are now organising a holiday abroad to mark the end of their long legal fight.

Meanwhile, Ashley is so determined to continue with his life as normally as possible that he recently went tobogganing at a friend's birthday party.


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