Baby inquest: our anguish

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THE DEVASTATED family of a baby boy who died of pneumonia say they are still searching for answers despite an inquest being held into his death.

Alfie Jay Axe, from South Elmsall, was just six weeks old when he contracted the infection and died on March 27.

His parents believe he was left open to the chest infection as he had heart problems that were not dealt with quickly enough by the NHS.

Alfie’s mum, Jolene Axe, 30, of Spring Terrace, said when he was born, doctors at Pontefract General Infirmary told her he had a heart murmur and might have a hole in his heart.

She was told Alfie would need to go on a waiting list to have a scan at a new clinic that was being set up at Pinderfields Hosptial, which could take up to four weeks.

But during that time Mrs Axe and husband Trevor, 34, became concerned as Alfie struggled for breath.

Mrs Axe called to check on the status of the appointment when Alfie was a month old but was told it would take longer than expected as the new heart clinic was still not set up. Alfie died before a scan took place.

Mrs Axe said: “I am not saying Alfie should have had preferential treatment but we knew something was wrong and wanted it to be checked.

“I am not denying he died of pneumonia but I think it was because of his weak heart that led him to get it, and if that had been sorted quicker, Alfie would still be here today.”

Mr Axe said: “We can’t just move on because there are still so many questions running through our heads about what would have happened if Alfie had been given the scan he needed.”

Pathologist Dr Al-Adnani told an inquest at Wakefield Coroners’ Court on Friday that babies can contract the infection within a few hours without showing any symptoms.

He said he was 95 per cent certain Alfie’s death was due to pneumonia, and his heart problems were unlikely to have led to contracting pneumonia.

He said: “Even if it had been treated, they were isolated events and he would have got pneumonia.”

No hole was found but Alfie’s heart was double the size it should have been, suggesting that a hole in his heart had closed naturally.

Dr Tawfik, consultant paediatrician at Pinderfields Hospital told the inquest that it was not uncommon for babies to be born with holes in their heart which correct themselves naturally.

Coroner David Hinchliff recorded a verdict of death by natural causes.

The family are seeking legal advice on the matter.

Mrs Axe said: “The pathologist said it was ‘unlikely’ to be because of the heart problem, but unlikely is not good enough when it comes to losing your son.

“They have let Alfie down and we have to live with the consequences. They all get to go home to their families. We can’t.”

Professor Tim Hendra, medical director at The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust said: “On behalf of the Trust I would like to express our deepest sympathies to Mr and Mrs Axe for their tragic loss. Our aim is to do all we possibly can in the care and treatment of our patients and I am sorry that Mr and Mrs Axe feel that we could have done more.

“We have met with Mr and Mrs Axe and contacted them again to offer a further meeting so we can go through their concerns with them in person.”