Girl ‘died of meningitis’ hours after she was sent home from hospital

Girl, four, ‘died of meningitis’ just hours after she was sent home from hospital

Girl, four, ‘died of meningitis’ just hours after she was sent home from hospital before a routine tonsil operation

  • Gracie Foster was booked in to have her tonsils removed in October 2015
  • But the schoolgirl’s op was cancelled because she quickly deteriorated
  • Doctors sent her home, and allegedly said she did not need antibiotics 
  • Gracie then died of meningococcal septicaemia later the same day
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Gracie Foster, of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, died of meningococcal septicaemia

A four-year-old girl has died of blood poisoning and meningitis after being sent home from hospital before a routine tonsil operation.

Gracie Foster, of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, was booked into hospitals to have her tonsils removed on the day of her death in October 2015.

But the schoolgirl deteriorated before the surgery and was too poorly to go under the knife. Doctors sent her home, and allegedly said she did not need antibiotics.

Gracie was taken home by her family, who thought she had a virus, but the four-year-old died of meningococcal septicaemia (blood poisoning) later the same day.

Her mother is now raising questions over her daughter’s sudden death ahead of her inquest, which is set to begin at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court on Monday. 

Michelle Foster, her mother said: ‘Gracie’s death has completely changed our lives. It’s something we have to re-live over and over every single day.

‘We were so lucky to have been in the hospital at the time Gracie developed symptoms of meningococcal septicaemia.

‘She had a hospital bed and nurses saying she was really poorly – but unfortunately, she was sent home, even though at the time, she was dying.

‘We are hoping her inquest will help to bring us closure and give us answers.’

Gracie, a pupil at Lenthall Nursery and Infant School, was booked into Chesterfield Royal Hospital at around 7am on October 21, 2015.

She was supposed to have her chronically enlarged tonsils taken out, due to them causing difficulties with swallowing and speech.

Upon admission, Gracie was fine and chatting with the nurses as normal.

However, while waiting for the surgery, her family claim she deteriorated suddenly, becoming very agitated, floppy and sleepy.

They allege a hospital nurse noticed Gracie felt hot and recorded her temperature at 40.1° (104.2°F). 

Gracie was taken back to the ward and was reviewed by the anaesthetist, who then cancelled her operation.

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Her family claim a staff nurse requested a paediatrician review Gracie and a locum consultant attended and confirmed she did not need antibiotics and could go home.

Ms Foster carried Gracie off the ward and the youngster spent the afternoon with her grandmother while Ms Foster, believing her daughter had a viral infection from which she would fully recover, returned to work.

But Gracie continued to vomit throughout the afternoon with a raised temperature and was unable to communicate with her father on the phone when he rang at about 6.45pm.

At 7pm, two non-blanching spots were found on Gracie’s body and her worried grandmother rushed her to Sheffield Children’s Hospital, where she was floppy, unresponsive and found to be covered in more spots.

Gracie was also struggling to breathe and was immediately put into intensive care.

But doctors were unable to save her and she died a few hours later at 10.36pm, after suffering two cardiac arrests.


Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.

Anyone can be affected but at-risk people include those aged under five, 15-to-24 and over 45.

People exposed to passive smoking or with suppressed immune systems, such as patients undergoing chemotherapy, are also more at risk.

The most common forms of meningitis are bacterial and viral.

Symptoms for both include:

  • Pale, blotchy skin with a rash that does not fade when compressed with a glass
  • Stiff neck
  • Dislike of bright lights  
  • Fever, and cold hands and feet
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness 
  • Severe headache 

Headache is one of the main symptoms

Bacterial meningitis 

Bacterial meningitis requires urgent treatment at hospital with antibiotics.  

Some 10 per cent of bacterial cases are fatal.

Of those who survive, one in three suffer complications, including brain damage and hearing loss. 

Limb amputation is a potential side effect if septicaemia (blood poisoning) occurs.

Vaccines are available against certain strains of bacteria that cause meningitis, such as tuberculosis.

Viral meningitis 

Viral is rarely life-threatening but can cause long-lasting effects, such as headaches, fatigue and memory problems. 

Thousands of people suffer from viral meningitis every year in the UK. 

Treatment focuses on hydration, painkillers and rest.

Although ineffective, antibiotics may be given when patients arrive at hospital just in case they are suffering from the bacterial form of the disease. 

Source: Meningitis Now 

Gracie, of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, was booked into hospitals to have her tonsils removed on the day of her death in October 2015

Ms Foster said she hopes the four day inquest will find the answers her family are desperate for for their daughter, described as ‘an adventurous and Frozen-loving princess’.

She added: ‘Gracie was full of life and a really happy little girl who made everyone smile. She was such an entertainer.

‘There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t try, she was so adventurous.

‘She loved Frozen – it was something we all had to love because we’d always be singing along to it in the car.

‘She also loved netball, it’s something I play and she couldn’t wait to join me on the court, and would enjoy climbing trees or dressing up as a princess.’

Carolle White, associate who specialises in medical negligence and inquests at Nelsons, is representing Gracie’s family.

She said: ‘This is a truly tragic case which has broken the hearts of young Gracie’s family – losing a child changes your whole perspective on life.

‘Meningococcal septicaemia is a type of illness that is poorly understand in terms of the symptoms to look out for both by the public and medical profession.

‘The symptoms can be similar to those you may experience with a viral illness.

‘However, there are important red flag symptoms to look out for that indicate the illness is sepsis as opposed to a viral infection.

‘I hope the inquest into Gracie’s death raises awareness of meningococcal septicaemia and allows people to understand the devastating illness better, in turn lessening the changes of this from happening to others.’

Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, refused to comment until the inquest finishes next week. 


Sepsis, known as the ‘silent killer’, strikes when an infection such as blood poisoning sparks a violent immune response in which the body attacks its own organs.

It is the leading cause of avoidable death, killing at least 44,000 a year, and the Daily Mail has long campaigned for more awareness.

If caught early, the infection can be controlled by antibiotics before the body goes into overdrive – ultimately leading to death within a matter of minutes.

But the early symptoms of sepsis can be easily confused with more mild conditions, meaning it can be difficult to diagnose. 

Sepsis has similar symptoms to flu, gastroenteritis and a chest infection.

These include:

  • Slurred speech or confusion
  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain
  • Passing no urine in a day
  • Severe breathlessness
  • It feels like you are dying
  • Skin mottled or discoloured

Symptoms in children are:

  • Fast breathing
  • Fits or convulsions
  • Mottled, bluish or pale skin
  • Rashes that do not fade when pressed
  • Lethargy
  • Feeling abnormally cold

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