A teenage transplant patient died after doctors misdiagnosed her with food poisoning – when her body was rejecting her new heart.
Jessica Brooks, 18, had been given just two weeks to live but her life was “transformed” by a heart transplant.
But the “wonderful and happy” student was rushed into hospital in January 2017 – almost a year after surgery.
Jessica’s family was told by staff at Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham, Kent, she was suffering from gastroenteritis, food poisoning, and later sepsis.
She passed away the same day and the post mortem discovered her body was rejecting the donor heart.
A report into the tragic death revealed nurses pleaded with medics to assess her – but they failed to treat her for several hours.
It read: “Despite multiple attempts by the nursing staff, there was a significant delay in a doctor attending the unit.
“Discussion with the pathologist who conducted the post mortem indicates that the cause of the death was rejection of the transplant.
“The pathologist found no evidence of sepsis.”
Jessica’s mum launched a legal battle against Medway NHS Trust.
According to the family’s lawyer, no doctors assessed Jessica for organ rejection and this led to her “needless and avoidable death.”
Mum Emily who held her “wonderful” daughter during her last moments said she believe Jessica would still be alive if she wasn’t misdiagnosed.
She said: “I’ve been told that if she had been diagnosed properly she may still be here today.
“She would have received her anti-rejection medication and my wonderful daughter may well still be alive here with me.
“I went home from the hospital to change my clothes and have a bite to eat and told them to call me if something happened.
“I was only away for an hour. I went to hold her but she made this awful sound, had her eyes open and looked like she was having a fit.
“I later learned that this was the death rattle.”
The mum launched a legal battle and claimed she told hospital staff that her daughter wasn’t responding to drugs.
She said: “It’s incredible that they could have got the diagnosis and her treatment so wrong, despite me repeatedly telling them that Jess wasn’t keeping down her anti-rejection medication and she needed it.
“One doctor said that they were used to dealing with kidney transplants, but not heart transplants.
“I think about Jess every day and now all of the legal stuff is almost over hopefully I will be able to grieve.
“Jess is irreplaceable and her loss has left a gaping hole in my life.
“She was my best friend and I find some days are really hard to get through.”
Jessica who lived in Gillingham, Kent, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy when she was 15-years-old.
The disease causes the heart muscle to become stretched and thin, so it cannot pump blood around the body effectively.
She underwent surgery and given a donor heart in February 2016 but was rushed to hospital after vomiting for three days the following January.
The teenager who was described as a “fighter” passed away at the hospital later the same day she was admitted.
Emily said: “When Jessica had a heart transplant it changed her life and I will be forever grateful for the extra year it gave her.
“She was full of energy again. Three days after her transplant she was on the exercise bike.
“Beforehand she had been struggling to walk up the stairs.
“When the fluid retention from the operation went down she started to look like a normal young woman again.
“I had my baby for another year that we wouldn’t have otherwise had thanks to organ donation.
“We got to watch her be healthy and happy for a whole extra year.
“We watched her run, climb, fall in love, have parties for no reason, eat her favourite foods and tell her that I loved her many many times.
“All of that thanks to her donor, which is why we will still continue to encourage people to get onto the donors’ list.
“Jess would have wanted that, it’s what she would have done herself.”
Jessica’s sister Abbigail (corr) Brooks-Barry, 20, described her younger sister as a “fighter”.
She said: “We had an extra year with her and I’m glad I got to tell her I loved her.
“Jess was a fighter. She fought for her life more times than anyone should.”
“She was always smiling and happy.
“She was always singing and playing her guitar, she had so many friends.
“When she grew up she wanted to be a journalist.”
Medway NHS Trust admitted liability in a civil claim and has apologised to Jessica’s family.
James Devine, chief executive of the trust said: “We would like to again offer our sincere condolences to Jessica’s family for their tragic loss.
“Due to ongoing legal proceedings we are unable to comment further.”
Agata Usewicz, a specialist clinical negligence solicitor from Hodge Jones and Allen, who is representing the family said: “At no point did any doctor assess her for organ rejection and this failure ultimately led to her needless and avoidable death.”