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Widow Vows To Battle On For Answers After Death Of Childhood Sweetheart

Coroner Asks For Review Of Procedures


The family of a man who died just days after medical staff repeatedly failed to diagnose a severe middle ear infection that resulted in deadly brain damage are to continue their battle for answers, lawyers confirmed today.

Speaking on behalf of Alicia Baker after an inquest into the tragic death of her husband, 31-year-old Rikki, from Exeter, medical law expert Julie Lewis from Irwin Mitchell said the devastated widow was determined to ‘get to the bottom of what happened’, amidst concerns regarding the treatment he received.

The concerns came after a coroner gave a narrative verdict, recording that although Rikki had died of otitis media, a natural cause, there was clear evidence that vital signs had been missed which lead to a misdiagnosis of otitis externa.

Deputy Coroner Darren Salter went on to ask for a review of procedures relating to the treatment of ear infections at the Royal Devon and Essex Hospital and the walk in centre on its site.

Having become unwell in early July 2010 with vertigo, a sore throat, sensitivity to light and severe earache.

Mr Baker thought he was simply suffering with an ear infection. But as his condition deteriorated the supervisor for E & JW Glendinning Ltd was taken to the A&E Department of the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital by his increasingly worried family.

Having barely eaten for a week, sweating profusely, vomiting and shielding his eyes from the light, he was supported into the hospital by his mum Jill and her partner, disorientated and struggling to walk alone.

But despite his condition, reception staff directed them to the Exeter walk-in centre, where he was briefly examined by a nurse and diagnosed with an infection of the external ear.

With a prescription of ear drops he was sent home to rest.

Julie Lewis from Irwin Mitchell said: “It is extremely concerning that the nurse failed to recognise that this was a middle ear infection and just how ill Mr Baker was.

“In response to the seriousness of his condition he should have been referred to a doctor and prescribed the antibiotic which could have saved his life.

“Instead, the infection continued to spread for a number of days which resulted in swelling, and insurmountable pressure on the blood supply to the brain.”

After being sent home on the 24th of July his condition rapidly worsened and he was drifting in and out of consciousness.

His wife Alicia, 29, claims that despite ringing Devon Doctors and NHS Direct on several occasions, no one felt it necessary to instruct the terrified mum to bring him back into the hospital.

By 26th July Rikki’s condition had deteriorated further and he had became delirious and was lashing out, unaware of his surroundings. Frantic with worry, Alicia called an ambulance and he was rushed back to Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital.

Sadly Rikki passed away in hospital four days later on 30th July 2010. His cause of death was listed as brain damage and swelling caused by blood poisoning as a result of an acute infection of the middle ear.

Julie Lewis said: “This is a tragic case. Rikki leaves behind two little boys aged 4 and 6, as well as his wife, Alicia, who had been his childhood sweetheart.

“She is understandably distraught by her husband’s death and has instructed us to further investigate why Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust and Devon Primary Care Trust failed to refer to him an ENT specialist or to a GP to prescribe antibiotics.

“Whilst we are grateful to the Coroner for his time investigating this horrific incident, there are a number of unanswered questions, including whether due to his symptoms he should have been treated with antibiotics which would potentially have saved his life.

“Not only is it imperative that a full investigation into exactly what happened must be conducted in order to provide this information once and for all, but so that lessons can be learnt and shared across the NHS to prevent further suffering.”

Alicia Baker said: “I watched helplessly as his condition deteriorated. Rikki’s death has left me heartbroken. We had been together for 14 years and we were totally devoted to each other.

“He leaves behind our little boys who will have to grow up without their Daddy as a result of this cruel illness which took him away from us so tragically. I cannot rest until I get to the bottom of what happened, and finally have answers to the many questions I still have about the circumstances surrounding his death.”