Parents want answers after baby girl dies

The heartbroken parents of a baby girl who died of whooping cough want to know if more could have been done to prevent her death.

Violet Herdman died on May 1 at just five weeks old.

She was born prematurely on March 26 at Wansbeck Hospital and despite struggling to feed, was discharged to her Pegswood home 10 days later.

But on April 27, she was admitted to North Tyneside Hospital and underwent tests. But despite her breathing stopping on multiple occasions and her lips turning blue, staff discharged her a day later, saying it was nothing more than a chest infection.

But at home, Violet’s conditioned worsened and the following day mum Emma Sharp, 33, had to resuscitate her.

She was taken back to North Tyneside Hospital and her parents were told she may have pneumonia. She was transferred to the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle for ventilation support.

It was not until Violet suffered a full cardiac arrest, that Emma and dad Colin Herdman were told for the first time she had whooping cough.

Doctors said that by then there was nothing more that could be done for her and, after being baptised in hospital, the couple made the heart-breaking decision to allow her life support to be switched off.

Emma, who has four other children aged between 12 and 22 months, said: “Violet’s death has left the entire family in pieces and at the moment it feels like every day is a struggle.

“We only had two weeks of her at home and I cannot help but think of all the things she missed out on – it’s absolutely heart-breaking.

“I knew there was something seriously wrong with Violet and never believed she should have been discharged from hospital when she had stopped breathing so many times, but the staff were adamant she was fine.

“Having to resuscitate her at home in front of my children was absolutely horrendous and I’m sure will continue to affect us all for years to come.”

She added: “After Violet’s death I researched whooping cough and was shocked to discover that all pregnant women should be vaccinated because of a known epidemic.

“I learnt that the best time to get the injection was between 28 and 32 weeks and with Violet being born at over 33 weeks I cannot understand why I slipped through the net.

“Two of my previous children have been premature so the maternity staff should have known there was a chance Violet would also be premature and vaccinated me at the earliest opportunity.

“Before we can even begin to think about coming to terms with what has happened, Colin and I need answers about why I was not offered a vaccine and why no link was made between Violet’s symptoms and whooping cough.

“Nothing can turn back the clock for us but for Violet’s death not to be completely in vain we need reassurance that every NHS Trust provides vaccines for pregnant women and that staff are trained to recognise the condition so it can be treated appropriately. It’s too late for Violet but it might just help prevent another family going through the same hell as us.”

Medical lawyers Irwin Mitchell are investigating why Emma was not given a whooping cough vaccine during her pregnancy as well as whether more could have been done to recognise Violet’s symptoms.

A spokeswoman for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would like to extend our sincere condolences to Violet’s family for their tragic loss earlier this year. We are in touch with Violet’s parents and are already fully investigating the circumstances surrounding their daughter’s death.

“This investigation is ongoing and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further until we have completed this thorough investigation and shared the findings with Violet’s parents.”