Five-year-old Sophia Holden has asplenia which means she doesn’t have a spleen and is vulnerable to infection.
In October 2018, she was taken to Pinderfields Hospital with vomiting and a high temperature. Diagnosis and treatment was delayed and as a result she also collapsed and had to be put on a ventilator.
Sophia’s family waited for hours before she was diagnosed with sepsis – when the body attacks itself in response to infection - and treated with intravenous antibiotics.
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As a result of her collapse she suffered a brain injury due to a lack of oxygen. She suffered a cortical visual injury and is now registered blind. Sadly due to her injury, she also had to relearn many skills.
Following her diagnosis, Sophia’s parents Laura and Heather Holden instructed medical negligence experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate their daughter’s care under Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and help her access the specialist rehabilitation she requires to aid her recovery.
The Trust, which runs Pinderfields, admitted that had Sophia been treated for sepsis within an hour of her arrival at hospital, she would have avoided her injuries.
Now, despite the challenges she faces, Sophia is progressing well with her recovery. Laura and Heather are joining with their legal team to share her story to mark World Sepsis Day and raise awareness of the importance of early diagnosis and treatment when it comes to sepsis.
Rachelle Mahapatra, the specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, said: “Sophia is an inspirational young girl, determined to live life to the full despite having gone through so much in such a short space of time.
“Sepsis can be life-threatening and have a devastating impact on those affected. Through our work, we see how early diagnosis and treatment are key to beating it.
“Nothing will change what Sophia, Laura and Heather have been through, but to see Sophia make incredible progress through rehabilitation and show such a recovery is wonderful. We will also continue to help the family access the specialist therapies they require.”
Since her diagnosis, Sophia has undergone rehabilitation to relearn a lot of skills including speaking and walking.
Within the last year, she started nursery school where she has made new friends and explored new activities. She has also been learning numbers and letters, and enjoys painting.
Sophia loves the outdoors and spending time with her family and friends. She likes to stay active by taking part in martial arts and horse riding, which also helps improve her core stability and balance.
She lives with Laura and Heather, both 37, and her seven-year-old brother Finlay.
PE teacher Laura said: “We were absolutely devastated when Sophia was diagnosed with asplenia, and then sepsis. Her start to life has been a very difficult one, but she continues to go from strength to strength with her recovery.
“The last year has been great for Sophia. She settled in really well at nursery and has been working hard on her numbers. She can now count up to 30 and loves to work with her one-to-one and specialist teachers. She’s now moved up to reception and we hope she keeps enjoying her educational journey.
“She has also made huge strides with her walking and loves to walk and run at any opportunity. She loves being outside and is getting stronger on her legs every day. She is also trying to feed herself more and is fiercely independent in trying to do this.
“In addition, her speech is at a level it should be and her language skills are also improving.
“Sophia is a happy little girl who is super determined to push herself in all aspects of her life. We are so proud of her journey so far and can’t wait to see what the future holds.
“We hope that by sharing Sophia’s story, others will be made aware of how dangerous sepsis can be and the importance of it being detected early.”
David Melia, Director of Nursing and Quality at The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “As we have previously commented we are very upset that Sophia and her family have had to go through the trauma of sepsis and the lasting impact it has had on their lives.
“But, we are all delighted to hear that Sophia is starting school and we wish her every success.
“As a Trust we support World Sepsis Day every year, helping to raise the awareness of it amongst our community and colleagues.
“Sepsis training is now mandatory for all Trust nursing staff, there are sepsis champions on each ward and there is a sepsis quality improvement programme across all wards. Compliance is audited and constantly monitored so that action canbe taken swiftly should the need arise.
“We continue to be grateful to all our patients who use their own experiences to help and support others.”
World Sepsis Day is held on 13 September every year and provides an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against sepsis.
Symptoms include dizziness, confusion, nausea and vomiting, slurred speech, severe muscle pain, shortness of breath, diarrhoea and passing less or no urine.
For more information visit UK Sepsis Trust’s website www.sepsistrust.org