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Jessica Brooks, 18, of Gillingham, died after Medway Maritime Hospital doctors wrongly diagnose rejected donor heart as food poisoning

A teenager died after doctors wrongly diagnosed food poisoning when her body was rejecting a donor heart.

Jessica Brooks, 18, from Gillingham, had a transplant which “transformed her life” a year before she was admitted to Medway Maritime Hospital after vomiting for three days, but doctors still failed to diagnose organ rejection.

Instead Jessica was told she had gastroenteritis and then sepsis.

Nurses pleaded with medics to reassess Jessica, but they failed to attend to her for several hours after she was admitted to a high dependency unit.

Tragic Jessica Brooks, 18
Tragic Jessica Brooks, 18

A report into her death said: “Despite multiple attempts by the nursing staff, there was a significant delay in a doctor attending the unit.

“Discussion with the pathologist who conducted the post mortem indicates that the cause of the death was rejection of the transplant. The pathologist found no evidence of sepsis.”

Jessica’s mum, Emily, from Louisville Avenue, said: “I’ve been told that if she had been diagnosed properly she may still be here today.

“She would have received her anti-rejection medication and my wonderful daughter may well still be alive here with me.”

Jessica, a former MidKent College student, was admitted to the hospital in January 2017, because she was vomiting and had severe stomach pain.

She was moved to a high dependency unit where she was diagnosed with sepsis. She died later that day.

Jessica and mum Emily
Jessica and mum Emily

Jessica, a former Pride in Medway nominee, had undergone a heart transplant the year before after she developed dilated cardiomyopathy – a condition where the heart becomes enlarged and cannot pump blood properly.

Emily said: “When Jessica had a heart transplant it changed her life and I will be forever grateful for the extra year it gave her.

“She was full of energy again. Three days after her transplant she was on the exercise bike.

“Beforehand she had been struggling to walk up the stairs.

“When the fluid retention from the operation went down she started to look like a normal young woman again.

“I went home to change my clothes and have a bite to eat and told them to call me if something happened.

“I was only away for an hour. I went to hold her but she made this awful sound, had her eyes open and looked like she was having a fit.

“I later learned that this was the death rattle.”

Jessica Brooks was previously nominated for a Pride in Medway award
Jessica Brooks was previously nominated for a Pride in Medway award

Medway NHS Trust has admitted liability in a civil claim brought by clinical negligence specialists Hodge Jones and Allen and apologised to her mother.

Emily continued: “It’s incredible that they could have got the diagnosis and her treatment so wrong, despite me repeatedly telling them that Jess wasn’t keeping down her anti-rejection medication and she needed it.

“One doctor said that they were used to dealing with kidney transplants, but not heart transplants.

“I think about Jess every day and now all of the legal stuff is almost over hopefully I will be able to grieve.

“Jess is irreplaceable and her loss has left a gaping hole in my life.

“She was my best friend and I find some days are really hard to get through.”

Agata Usewicz, a specialist clinical negligence solicitor from Hodge Jones and Allen, said: “At no point did any doctor assess her for organ rejection and this failure ultimately led to her needless and avoidable death.”

James Devine, chief executive of Medway NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We would like to again offer our sincere condolences to Jessica’s family for their tragic loss.

“Due to ongoing legal proceedings we are unable to comment further.”

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