The parents of a young boy who died of influenza A hope that hospital staff and parents learn the lessons from their tragedy after a coroner found staff had become “fixated” on thinking his monitoring equipment was faulty.
Three-year-old Aidan Mara died at Sutherland Hospital in July 2014, two days after he was admitted suffering symptoms of pneumonia.
“We never actually knew he had the flu until after he had passed away,” his father Lucas Mara said.
“We took him to hospital and he had the right care.
“People don’t realise the symptoms from the flu are much more severe than a cold.”
Aidan went into shock and collapsed after staff took his oxygen mask off, at the request of his parents, so that he could have a shower.
He was then put to bed where it was thought he was just sleeping.
Two nurses attempted to re-attach the oxygen prongs and monitoring sensors to the boy but could not get a reading.
One of the nurses sourced a replacement for the machine.
According to the evidence at the inquiry it was not until the boy’s grandmother noticed that his chest was not moving that the alarm was raised.
Delay of treatment ‘unacceptably long’
Deputy state coroner Teresa O’Sullivan found there was “sufficient evidence that the time between Aidan collapsing and the time of calling for medical review was unacceptably long”.
She found “this was a result of the fixation on the monitoring equipment, which the nurses thought must be the cause of the failure to get adequate readings”.
The coroner recommended that a component of the training for nursing staff address the phenomenon of “fixation errors”.
A fixation error refers to the phenomenon of where a person or a group gets into a pattern of thinking there is only one possible explanation.
“The nurses were convinced that the monitoring equipment must be faulty, rather than questioning whether Aidan was critically ill,” the coroner says.
Aidan’s parents Gillian and Lucas Mara were described by the coroner as being extremely gracious to the staff and the court.
Lucas Mara said in a statement to the court “we hope there are lessons to be learned not just about avoiding tragedies in the future but also about love in general”.
Aidan was remembered as having a loving personality who was always thinking of others, particularly his big brother.