Tragic death of teenage boy with rare leukemia ‘could have been prevented’

A coroner said a proper clinical examination and blood test could have led to an earlier diagnosis and proper treatment for Katie Wilkins, 14, of Warrington

Katie Wilkins died aged 14 at Alder Hey Children's Hospital
Katie Wilkins died aged 14 at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

The tragic death of a young girl with a rare form of leukemia could have been prevented and was the result of medical neglect, a coroner said.

Katie Wilkins, of Warrington, died on July 31, 2020, aged just 14, after suffering an intracranial hemorrhage as a result of her acute promyelocytic leukemia (APML).

She had no medical history to speak of and had only become ill a month before.

Her inquest, which began Monday (May 23) at the Gerard Majella Courthouse in Bootle, saw coroner Kate Ainge today (May 26) and concluded her death was preventable Liverpool echo reported.

Ms Ainge said proper clinical review and a blood test could have led to an earlier diagnosis and the right treatment.

The teen’s symptoms began with excruciating pain while visiting her sister in London in June 2020.

On June 30, she was taken to the Warrington emergency room, where an unusual abscess was diagnosed and antibiotics prescribed.

The teen’s symptoms began with excruciating pain while visiting her sister in London


Liverpool echo)

The family were told the healing process would take time and were given a second course of antibiotics at a follow-up appointment on July 2nd.

Katie, who attended Bridgewater High School, had to be hospitalized five times and was in great pain.

She began to experience stabbing pains in places like her abdomen, which prevented her from sleeping at night.

By July 14, Katie had not improved and was given a PEW – a pediatric early warning score used nationwide to predict early deterioration – a score of two that was incorrectly recorded as one.

Ms Ainge said a higher score would have resulted in an escalation of care and four hourly observations should have been made.

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital



Katie was given a bed in Warrington’s children’s ward with the option of surgery the next day, but was instead discharged with no blood tests and an MRI.

On July 26, Katie collapsed at home and continued to deteriorate.

She was stabilized at Warrington Hospital and transferred to Alder Hey where her APML was confirmed.

Her fibrinogen level was recorded as less than one, which should have been treated immediately.

An independent health expert, Dr. Cathy Farrelly, of the Royal Liverpool Hospital, said on Wednesday the unusual nature of the abscess, which usually occurs in the elderly, should have prompted a clinical review and blood test.

Left untreated, such an abscess carries an increased risk and is more difficult to correct.

She said it should have been treated on a suspect basis.

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Katie also had a mild headache which, along with her other symptoms, should be a warning sign that something was wrong.

A complex rotation system and shortage of hematologists at Alder Hey also prevented Katie from receiving the treatment she needed, the inquest was told.

On July 29, Katie suffered an intracranial hemorrhage and was pronounced brain dead after undergoing surgery with her parents by her side.

Ms Ainge said Katie was a vulnerable young girl and had failed to provide her with basic medical care.

APML has a high mortality rate if not treated properly in the first few days.

Ms Ainge said it was “highly likely” that her death could have been prevented with the right care.

While the rare form of cancer has a high recovery rate, it comes with a high risk of developing coagulopathy — excessive bleeding.

As a result of the inquest into Katie’s death, Ms Ainge said staff would continue to be trained and held accountable to reduce the likelihood of human error.

A new Rota system for people with complex needs has been set up at Alder Hey Hospital, the inquiry was told.

The coroner added that Alder Hey suffered from a nationwide lack of resources, including a shortage of hematologists.

The hearing was told the issue has been escalated to those who fund NHS trusts, the Foreign Secretary and Health Secretary.

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