Parents Call For Greater Awareness As Boy Died After Asthma Attack

Family Seeking Legal Advice After Several Incidents Highlighted At Inquest


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

The parents of a 10-year-old boy who died after being rushed to hospital following an asthma attack have called for lessons to be learnt after hearing evidence about the events leading up to his death at an inquest.

The family are now taking legal advice from specialist medical lawyers after an inquest heard from an independent doctor that his family should have been given a specialist injection tool containing adrenaline (EpiPen) to use in the event of a life-threatening allergic reaction. There are concerns that had this been available, it could have bought paramedics more time to treat him.

Harrison (Harry) Cuming suffered from asthma from birth and regularly needed hospital treatment for asthma attacks. In addition to this he had a known allergy to nuts. In October 2011 he suffered a severe asthma attack at home and as he was struggling to breathe his father called an ambulance. Although a paramedic arrived in a car within the permitted eight minute response time, an ambulance, which contained vital equipment, was delayed due to a problem with its satellite navigation system.

At an inquest into his death on 2nd October 2013 the coroner gave a verdict of natural causes and confirmed that Harry had died from an acute asthma attack caused by a severe allergic reaction.

Harry’s parents, Dwayne and Vicky had already instructed specialist medical lawyers to investigate his care as they were concerned both about his treatment in the weeks leading up to his death – when he was admitted to hospital for several days before being discharged – and in the delays in resuscitating him and getting him to the hospital. The inquest has highlighted further concerns that the family were not previously aware of.

Leena Savjani, an expert medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family said: “This is a very tragic case of a family that had been managing Harry’s asthma with the help of medical professionals when needed.

“Harry’s parents were concerned about his care both in the lead up to his death and in the response on the day that he died. They still have questions about his general care in relation to managing his asthma and allergies, in particularly in relation to the issues raised in the inquest as to the provision of an EpiPen.

“They are now concerned that if they had been given this specialist adrenaline injection pen, it may have helped buy more time to treat Harry on the day of his tragic death. Although it is acknowledged that the paramedics did respond in time, the family are concerned about the response from the emergency services in relation to the equipment available and the decision making at the time life saving treatment was being provided.

“We will be discussing the legal options with the family to help them move forward. There are still many unanswered questions about Harry’s care that require further investigation. We need to find out if any lessons can be learnt from this tragic case so that patient safety can be improved and other families don’t have to suffer the same heartache in the future.”

On 8th October 2011 Harry was suffering with a severe wheeze at home and his mother took him to A&E at Chorley Hospital. He was transferred to a paediatric ward at Royal Preston Hospital at 5:30am where Harry he was admitted and monitored 4 hourly.

Harry was discharged on 11th October but on 14th October he experienced a tightness in his chest once again. On the evening of the 15th October, after eating a meal, Harry said his chest was quite tight and became frustrated as he felt his inhalers were not working and he could not breathe.

As his condition deteriorated and he was struggling to breathe, Harry’s father called for an ambulance. He then became unconscious before a first response paramedic arrived in a car to treat Harry pending arrival of the main ambulance. At this time Harry had vomited but the paramedic did not use a hand-held suction kit because she felt it would be inadequate to clear the amount of vomit. A more powerful suction kit, carried by the main ambulance, was not available. 

Harry’s father felt that the paramedic was struggling to manage the emergency situation and decided to use a vacuum cleaner nozzle to clear Harry’s airways. The family later learned that during this time the main ambulance had been delayed as an ambulance satellite navigation system had taken it in the wrong direction.

When the main ambulance finally arrived there was a further delay in leaving the house because of confusion amongst the paramedics about who was driving. Sadly attempts to try and revive Harry at the hospital were unsuccessful.

Harry was diagnosed with asthma at the age of just six months and was classed as a chronic asthmatic who needed several inhalers, both preventative and for situations where his asthma attacks became worse.

Around six months before Harry’s death his parents noted a physical change in him. He had gained a lot of weight and was growing quickly but his family were told  that his preventative medication was at its maximum dose already and could not be increased.

Harry’s father Dwayne Cuming, 39, from Croston Preston, said: “For us the key in dealing with Harry’s asthma was learning to control it through the preventive medication so that it wasn’t necessary to use the relieving medication or at least to minimise its use. 

“Harry was also allergic to nuts and the link between allergies and asthma was never explained to us. We now know that an allergic reaction can prompt a serious asthma attack which is essentially what happened on the day Harry died. I’m very concerned to learn about the Epipen as this is not something which was ever offered to us and it seems it could potentially have given us more time to treat Harry on the day he died as it would have helped relieve his symptoms before the paramedics got there.

“We knew something wasn’t quite right for a few months with Harry but doctors said he was at his maximum dosage with his medication. When he went to hospital for over a week just before his death we were concerned when he was discharged because to us he still didn’t seem well enough.

“I asked the doctors about changing the preventive treatment for Harry but again they just said that we couldn’t try anything else and we were becoming increasingly frustrated. I suggested that Harry should at least stay in hospital as I knew we would be back in with him imminently if they sent him home, however I was told that this would not be possible and he was discharged.

“It’s heartbreaking to think that just four days later he suffered such a severe attack and ultimately lost his life. It’s incredibly frustrating and we just want to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. The inquest has provided us with some of the answers but we need to know if anything can be done to improve things in the future so that others don’t suffer as we have.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in Medical Negligence claims.