An issue with a breathing tube may have contributed to the death of the first child Covid victim in the UK, an inquest has heard.
Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab was 13 when he was rushed to King’s College Hospital in London with symptoms including fever, coughing and vomiting on March 26, 2020.
Due to hospital policies at the time, his family was not able to visit him in intensive care when he was moved there the following day.
Ismail, from Brixton in south-west London, died of acute respiratory distress syndrome caused by coronavirus pneumonia on March 30 – three days after he tested positive.
The family were also not able to attend his funeral, as they were self-isolating after some of his siblings contracted milder symptoms.
Four people wearing protective clothing, gloves and face masks lowered Ismail’s coffin into a south-east London grave in April 2020.
Hours before he died, doctors found that the endotracheal tube (ET) that was helping him to breath was in the wrong position.
Dr Tushar Vince, a consultant in paediatric intensive care at King’s College Hospital, made the decision not to move it, as the boy was lying on his front and doing so would mean flipping him over.
The inquest at London Inner South Coroner’s Court is examining whether the ET should have been repositioned.
Giving evidence via video-link, Dr Vince was asked by the coroner if it would be reasonable to put the positioning of the ET on the death certificate as one of the causes.
She replied: ‘I think it would be reasonable to consider it, yes.’
Asked about the cause of the cardiac arrest Ismail suffered before he died, she answered: ‘At a basic level, clearly the fact that the tube was not in the correct place has contributed to this.’
The court heard that Ismail was ‘improving’ at the time Dr Vince made the decision not to move the ET.
Another paediatric doctor, Anuj Khatri, pointed out to Dr Vince at around 9:30pm that the tube was too high but, following a conversation about the risks, she decided not to reposition it, the court heard.
During his evidence, Dr Khatri told the inquest he did not agree with his colleague’s decision.
He said he believed the situation was ‘urgent’ because if the tube dislodged, it would be ‘potentially life-threatening for a patient who is sedated and paralysed’ on muscle relaxants.
Dr Vince went on to tell the court that a dislodged tube in previously fit and healthy children should not ‘easily’ lead to cardiac arrest, leading her to question if he was ‘sicker than we thought’.
A statement from Ismail’s eldest sister, read out at the inquest, described him as a ‘kind and genuine soul’.
The family were only able to get in touch with the ward via telephone, the statement said, and they received a call hours before his death asking for a relative to come and see him.
Ismail’s sister said: ‘Once we arrived we were met with the dreadful, shocking and sad news of his passing.
‘We are overwhelmed with grief by his passing.’
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