Inquest hears five-year-old was 'more likely' to have survived if she had been shocked early

Will Taylor

The death of a five-year-old girl from Ruscombe could have been prevented if she had been shocked by a defibrillator at the earliest opportunity, an inquest heard today.

The inquest, at Reading Town Hall, was told it was 'more likely than not' that Lilly May Page-Bowden, who lived at Pennfields Drive, could have survived after she collapsed at Willow Bank Infant School in Woodley on Thursday, May 15 in 2014.

Yesterday, the inquest heard how a paramedic for South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), Shannon Jacobs, arrived at the scene at 3.24pm that day and saw Lilly May was receiving CPR from an off-duty nurse.

Ms Jacobs then took Lilly May into her ambulance and read her heart rhythm on a monitor, which she decided showed a ‘very fine ventricular fibrillation (VF)’  — a rhythm she believed was not shockable with a defibrillator.

Lilly May was taken to Royal Berkshire Hospital but was pronounced dead there later that day.

A subsequent autopsy found she had suffered from sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS).

Today, cardiologist Dr Edmund Ladusans told the inquest the rhythm was shockable, based on him looking at the trace printed out from the heart monitor at 3.29pm on the day.

He was asked by senior coroner Peter Bedford: "If she had been shocked at the earliest possible moment by the first attending paramedic, would she have survived?"

Dr Ladusans said: "If she had been cardioverted [shocked] then more likely than not she would have survived."

Yesterday, the inquest heard evidence from Ms Jacobs, who trained on a two-year Health and Care Professions Council-approved course at Oxford Brookes University from 2009.

She said that during her training, 'they said if it is fine VF to rely on CPR', as shocking a patient with such a rhythm could do more harm than good.

When questioned by Lilly May's family's advocate, David Thomas, whether she had been taught that or misinterpreted information, she said: "I believe we were taught it in the classroom."

Ms Jacobs has since been on core skills refresher courses, and had been made aware before the inquest that the heart rhythm, as recorded at 3.29pm, was shockable.

On Wednesday, Mark Ainsworth-Smith, a pre-hospital care consultant with SCAS, said his organisation had sent around information about the circumstances of the death to try help future paramedics in the same situation.

The inquest was adjourned until a later date in order to invite a person from Oxford Brookes University to provide evidence to the coroner.

A date for that has not yet been confirmed.

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