‘Miracle boy’ born prematurely at 26 weeks suddenly dies a decade later, sparking Portsmouth Police investigation, inquest


Denim Gillespie, 10, and his brother Reece found themselves with ‘complex needs’ due to their difficult births that they were not expected to survive in May 2008.

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After being born with bleeding and fluid in the brain, the two boys were diagnosed with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus, resulting in an enlarged head.

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Coroner’s Court – in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, Hampshire

As a result, the two needed medication to treat the epilepsy and the Portsmouth Coroner’s Court heard that Denim had suffered a number of seizures resulting in increased doses of prescription drugs.

On August 8, 2018, Denim had another seizure before receiving medication that calmed him down. That night his mother, Lisa Gillespie, slept with him in the living room of their adapted Copnor Green home.

Although she heard noises of “ growling ” in the early hours of August 9, Lisa said there was “ nothing unusual ” about Denim’s condition.

But at 4:15 a.m. Lisa woke up before realizing something was wrong. “I walked into the living room and felt his head was cold. I started to panic and thought he was dead and called 999, ” she said in her statement, read to the inquest.

Paramedics arrived before Denim was rushed to Queen Alexandra Hospital where medics were unable to save him. He is believed to have already died at home.

The inquest heard that before Denim’s death there were “ significant concerns ” about whether he was receiving the correct dose of medication from his parents and whether prescriptions were being picked up. Appointments with epilepsy doctors were not always followed, it was said at the hearing.

Concerns about the incorrect dosage were reported by a nurse at the Mary Rose Academy school, who said Denim’s mother “ didn’t seem to know ” what doses to give before a social worker be informed, as protection concerns have been raised by the authorities.

A police investigation followed into Lisa and her husband Paul’s negligence against the two boys and for causing or allowing the death of a child. The most serious charge was dropped after there was “ no clear criminal connection ” to securing a conviction, police said.

But the neglect investigation continued, with police focusing on the mistreatment of the twins, missed appointments and suspicion that the drugs were not being administered properly.

‘The interviews reinforced the fact that Lisa was taking responsibility for appointments and medications. Lisa had become confused about what medication to give the two children and was even confused during the interview, ” Detective Chief Inspector Liam Davies said.

The detective went on to say that there was also evidence of “miscommunication between (medical) professionals”.

Police have dropped their investigation into negligence.

During the hearing, Dr Joanne Crane, community pediatrician for Solent NHS Trust, responsible for monitoring Denim, admitted a breakdown in communication with Portsmouth NHS Trust hospitals.

She said that there had been “no communication with me” regarding certain seizures experienced by Denim and that she had not been informed of the increased doses of the drugs she had been given. administered.

The doctor also said there was no system in place for professionals to see if prescriptions had been collected from pharmacies. After Denim’s death, she said there was now a “direct line of communication” between healthcare organizations.

The inquest was heard by pathologist Dr Russell Delaney, who revealed Denim had bronchial pneumonia when he died, which was ‘enough to cause sudden death’. He said the boy’s epilepsy and other health issues may have contributed to his death.

Coroner Christopher Wilkinson has recorded a verdict of death from natural causes with Denim’s chest infection, epilepsy and underlying health issues ‘all plotting to cause his death while he slept’.

The coroner chose not to include negligence as playing a role in Denim’s death, saying there was “ insufficient evidence ”.

He said: ‘It is very clear that in the last two years before his death there were communication issues between professionals and with the family. ”

Mr Wilkinson said ‘family engagement was not as good as it sometimes could be’ but that with the ‘complex issues’ of treating twins with the same problems, “ more support should have been offered to help you with this. ”

The coroner acknowledged there was “ significant confusion ” over the drug regimen, but said the lack of drugs found in Denim’s system had “ no direct effect ” on his death.

Lisa described Denim as her ‘special boy’ who, along with Reece, were ‘miracle boys’ after surviving their traumatic birth. “ He was very affectionate and would act like Reece’s older brother, ” she said.

On the night of her death, Lisa recalled how Denim told her he “loved” her.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron

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