Family take legal action against hospital after six-year-old dies from croup
At just six years of age, Victorian boy Emmett Gage had his life cut short by croup – a common respiratory complaint in children.
Emmett died in June 2019, less than 24 hours after being discharged from a leading Melbourne hospital.
Emmett’s distraught mother Alex and grandmother Tina from Kilmore, north of Melbourne, are now speaking out about the tragedy.
“I lived for Emmett, he was my world, and now everything has been been turned upside down,” Alex Gage told 9News.
Around midnight on June 1st, 2019 Emmett, who also had autism and other respiratory problems, went to the Emergency Department of the Royal Children’s Hospital.
He was suffering the tell-tale symptoms of croup – a barking cough and breathing difficulties.
“He had a slight tinge of blue around his lips and he wasn’t right … he was very clammy and clingy to us,” said Ms Gage.
After a few hours of monitoring in the Emergency Department medical staff gave Emmett some more powerful medication to help his breathing.
According to the family around an hour later – just before 5am – medical staff advised them Emmett was well enough to go home and he was discharged.
Grandmother Tina, also an experienced nurse, said she was worried about leaving hospital but trusted the medical advice.
“They gave him dexamethasone which doesn’t kick in for 4 hours and I sort of thought oh well maybe they know better” she said.
The family drove some 70 kilometres back to their Kilmore home north of Melbourne and put Emmett to bed.
But the next morning – at home – Emmett’s coughing worsened.
And when his grandmother attended to him, he collapsed, went into cardiac arrest.
An ambulance was called and he was airlifted back to the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Despite medical intervention, the child had suffered severe brain injury.
Early in the morning of June 2nd, Emmett died in his mother’s arms.
“Had to make the decision to turn the machines off … that was probably the hardest decision ever.”
His grandmother Tina said Emmett’s death shattered their lives.
“He was such a beautiful little boy, so happy and loved everybody … we are never going to get over it,” she said.
Legal firm Slater and Gordon have taken up the case, seeking damages on behalf of the Gage family.
Lawyer Tom McKinnon said croup is rarely fatal now days.
The objective of the legal action being pursued is to not only provide compensation to the family, but answers to why their child died.
“The sad reality of this is they (the family) will probably never move on from this, that is very clear,” said Mr McKinnon.
“The crux of the claim is that is was unreasonable or inappropriate to discharge Emmett.”
The family said they do not want to tarnish the Royal Children’s Hospital’s reputation.
But, they are speaking out to encourage other parents in similar situations to trust their instincts when it comes to their child’s health.
“You have every right to kick up a fuss,” Ms Gage said.
“If you unhappy with what they’re saying or don’t understand it stick up for your child and trust your feelings.”
Ms Gage also wants the memory of her fun-loving, intelligent and popular boy to live on.
“His room is still the same as it was when he left and the calendar is still up … otherwise it will feel like he didn’t exist.”
*Nine News sought a response from the Royal Children’s Hospital, but a spokesperson said it was unable to comment.