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Grandmother, 72, died from sepsis after playing with guide dog

Grandmother, 72, died from sepsis just two weeks after getting two tiny scratches from playing with husband’s guide dog, inquest hears

  • Carol Parsons, 72, died two weeks after being scratched by her husband’s dog
  • A coroner said Mrs Parsons had the streptococci bug on her skin at the time
  • Medical tests determined Mrs Parson had a streptococci group A infection 
  • A coroner ruled that Mrs Parsons’ death was accidental having heard evidence 

Carol Parsons, 72, died two weeks after contracting the killer bug streptococci from the wounds which were not even deep enough to draw blood

A grandmother died from sepsis after suffering two tiny scratches while playing with her husband’s guide dog, an inquest heard.

Carol Parsons, 72, died two weeks after contracting the killer bug streptococci from the wounds which were not even deep enough to draw blood.

A coroner said it was the pensioner who had the bacteria on her skin and the Labrador cross called Quinney was not the carrier.

Mrs Parsons from Beeston, Nottingham, treated the scratches with antiseptic cream, but became ill a few days later and was taken to the Queens Medical Centre in the city.

After keyhole surgery was performed to examine the wounds microbiology tests found she had a streptococci group A infection on her skin.

Despite all the efforts of medical staff she developed sepsis which led to multiple organ failure, said Nottinghamshire’s assistant coroner Laurinda Bower.

She told Mrs Parsons’ grieving family: ‘This was a scratch, not a bite wound. This was not a bug the dog was carrying.’

Concluding that the pensioner’s death was accidental she added: ‘You have lost a super grandma and that is such a shame. It does demonstrate how precious life is,’ said the coroner.

Sepsis strikes around 250,000 people in the UK every year, and kills at least 50,000 – more than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined.

Only last week a leading health charity warned patients’ lives are being put at risk with one in four of those with suspected sepsis cases forced to wait too long for treatment.

But the coroner said all the evidence suggested that Mrs Parsons had received ‘high quality’ care when taken to hospital.

A surgeon was driving to the City Hospital, but was diverted to QMC to examine on February 17. Antibiotics were promptly started.

A coroner heard Mrs Parsons was carrying streptococci A on her skin when she was scratched by the dog, which made its way into her blood stream

The inquest heard Mrs Parsons had been playing with the dog in the kitchen when it jumped up.

Her husband Terry said Quinney often had his claws clipped, although they were worn down by walks. He has had the dog for five years and said: ‘He is a big old softy.’

A few days after the incident, Mrs Parsons began complaining of feeling unwell.

She decided to lie down, but became sick and started suffering from cramp so her worried husband rang for help and she was eventually taken to hospital.

The coroner read a medical report which said Mrs Parsons was found to have low blood pressure. Within an hour, she was put on antibiotics.

Biological tests found she had an infection caused by bacteria which had been on her skin. Many people carry these bugs, the inquest heard.

Medics found two scratches, each about one centimetre long. Neither was deep enough to bleed, the inquest heard.

Mrs Parsons had suffered a heart attack several years earlier and had another during the hospital treatment. She died on February 26 this year.

After the inquest, the family said: ‘She will be greatly missed by all her family and friends. She was one of a kind, a loving mother, sister, grandmother and great-grandmother.’

Hospitals are meant to put patients on an antibiotic drip within an hour when sepsis is suspected, but figures from 100 NHS trusts in England suggest thousands of cases are waiting longer.

Last week Dr Ron Daniels, of the UK Sepsis Trust, said the figures showed patients were being put at risk. He said the one-hour window was ‘essential to increase the chances of surviving’.

What are the key symptoms of sepsis? The ‘silent killer’ that can cause death in minutes

Sepsis, known as the ‘silent killer’, strikes when an infection such as blood poisoning sparks a violent immune response in which the body attacks its own organs. 

It is a potentially life-threatening condition, triggered by an infection or injury. 

Instead of attacking the invading bug, the body turns on itself, shutting down vital organs.

If caught early enough, it’s easily treated with intravenous antibiotics and fluids, but these must be given as soon as sepsis is suspected – it strikes with frightening speed and, for every hour of delay, a patient’s chance of dying increases 8 per cent.

Sepsis is a leading cause of avoidable death killing 44,000 people each year

The early symptoms of sepsis can be easily confused with more mild conditions, meaning it can be difficult to diagnose. 

A high temperature (fever), chills and shivering, a fast heartbeat and rapid breathing are also indicators. 

A patient can rapidly deteriorate if sepsis is missed early on, so quick diagnosis and treatment is vital – yet this rarely happens. 

In the early stages, sepsis can be mistaken for a chest infection, flu or upset stomach. 

The six signs of something potentially deadly can be identified by the acronym ‘SEPSIS’:

  • Slurred speech or confusion.
  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain.
  • Passing no urine in a day.
  • Severe breathlessness. 
  • Skin that’s mottled or discoloured.

Anyone who develops any of these symptoms should seek medical help urgently — and ask doctors: ‘Could this be sepsis?’


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