CONCERNS have been raised that more could have been done to prevent the death of a young Taunton woman, after an inquest was told she had been ill for four weeks before she was admitted to hospital.
An inquest last week heard 24-yearold Natalie Hunter was severely dehydrated and had not eaten or been to the toilet for four weeks by the time she arrived at Taunton’s Musgrove Park Hospital.
Doctors believe she may have suffered a septic shock but were unable to find out what caused it.
Giving evidence at the inquest in Taunton last Thursday, Natalie’s mother, Deborah, said her daughter had been suffering from flu-like symptoms and hadn’t eaten for four weeks prior to going into hospital.
She also told the inquest Natalie was severely autistic, with very limited speech, so would have struggled to explain what was wrong with her.
Mrs Hunter said: “The first week she was ill she hadn’t eaten all week, which was very unusual for her.
“She was still drinking plenty and watching her DVDs but I called the doctor because I was concerned.
“But they said that they wouldn’t come out and that it was normal if someone had the flu for them not to eat.”
Natalie’s parents continued to call her doctors at St James Medical Centre into the second and third week of her being unwell.
She still had not eaten and was drinking less.
Mrs Hunter said: “I kept trying to tempt her into eating but I couldn’t.
“She would usually drink milk with her breakfast but all she was drinking was lemonade ... she would just spit everything else out.
“Dr Martin came out to see her and told us she was fine and was not dehydrated.
“But she was only drinking a few tumblers of liquid and I had to use a syringe to get her to drink.
“She had not been out of bed for a few days and we were given a chair by the doctors to get her out of bed.”
Natalie’s parents were also concerned that she had not been to the toilet.
The court heard how she had problems going to the toilet when she was younger but had overcome these problems in recent years.
After four weeks of no improvement, Natalie was finally admitted to Musgrove Park Hospital on February 18.
Mrs Hunter added: “I feel like noone was listening to us or our concerns.
“Natalie couldn’t speak for herself and explain what was wrong.
“If she wasn’t autistic she would have been able to say how she felt.”
Dr Richard Gibbs from Musgrove Park Hospital told the inquest: “Natalie was extremely unwell when she was admitted.
“We decided to operate to get rid of the build-up of faeces.
“We operated late that evening – the build-up was large because she hadn’t been for so long.”
But her condition continued to deteriorate and Natalie died the following day.
Dr Gibbs explained they believed Natalie was suffering from septic shock but that they couldn’t find the cause.
West Somerset Coroner Michael Rose said: “I am confident that once Natalie was admitted to hospital, they did everything they could there to try and help her, but sadly, her condition was irreversible.
“What concerns me is that perhaps more could have been done before and maybe her symptoms were overlooked because family members had had the flu.
“I will be speaking to a medical advisor and asking for Natalie’s doctors to give evidence.”
The inquest was adjourned to November/December of this year.
A spokesman for St James Medical Centre told the County Gazette it would not be appropriate to comment at this stage.