Wales

Luke Jenkins death: Family's 'fight for justice'

Image copyright Jenkins family
Image caption Luke Jenkins suffered a cardiac arrest after being moved from intensive care onto a ward

Faye Valentine's seven-year-old son Luke died following heart surgery at Bristol Children's Hospital and will now receive compensation.

Here, Ms Valentine, from Newport, tells her story:

"He was a funny happy little boy, never let anything get in his way. The heart condition he had never phased him - he was just a happy, normal little boy.

He went in for the final stage of his heart operation - he'd had two other ones, it was just to complete the final stage of the surgery.

Obviously there were risks to the operation but they were confident everything was straight forward and it was normal type for that operation.

We were a bit alarmed when he was discharged from intensive care just after 24 hours and then as soon as we got up to ward 32 we just knew it wasn't right.

They were understaffed anyway - there were babies crying, alarms going off, and we didn't feel there was staff to look after all the children on the ward.

We asked them ourselves - he needs to be back in intensive care.

We were told Luke was going up to high dependency ward and then we found out later on after complaining to the CQC they didn't actually have a high dependency ward.

He just wasn't himself - he was really pale, he was losing lots of blood. They were telling us it was normal and we were just being over-anxious and this it what happens, but he wasn't himself and we knew he wasn't right.

They said it was all part of it and we were to calm down and they were monitoring him but, looking back, they weren't.

[An ombudsman's report] said on individual days that nurses weren't monitoring him and picking up that he was deteriorating. They didn't recognise he was ill... even though we were saying.

We were saying 'he's bleeding' - they'd get a doctor to come and look or one of the outreach team to come and look - they just weren't listening to us. They felt we were going on at them but looking back now we weren't and we were right, and if they'd listened to us and had him back in intensive care, he'd still be here now.

It's hard to get your head round really - we believe that had they taken Luke back down to intensive care they'd have noticed the bleeding, they'd have done something about it, they could have stopped it.

But they didn't give Luke that opportunity to do so and for them to tell us 'he might not have [died], he might have,' is still unanswered when we know had they done it he'd still be here.

They [the hospital] were apologetic in the meeting and we believed them and then they've just taken it back again... because we went public with it, we believe, showing them for what they've done - they don't like being caught out with what they've done - ultimately caused Luke's death.

At the time we believed that we were going to get something from the inquest. We put all our hopes into the truth finally coming out and we walked away from there just being a whitewash like everything else.

We went to the PHSO - the last people we thought could do something, and they've backed what we've said, they listened to us - the only people who properly listened to us and looked into what happened. It was proper, independent people investigating it and that's what they've come up with.

[The compensation settlement] was a lot to take it. We were going for a court hearing, the date was set, we had a week to get our statements in and it came out of the blue.

They accepted an old offer that was put to them a year-and-a-half ago. They could have avoided all of this. They've settled at the last minute, prevented us from taking it any further because they've agreed to pay all the legal costs.

This has been going on for five years, a battle for the truth that's all we've ever asked from them, all we've ever wanted. They've made us take it this far and go through statements reliving it all, our whole family reliving it and they're not bothered. To them it was just biding them some time before it all came out.

They've made us do this. At the beginning in our complaint letter, they started being honest and then they started taking it all back when we went public with it.

Image copyright Luke Jenkins and Bristol Children's Hospital

We wouldn't have done it had they just said 'we hold our hands up, we got it wrong' what could we have done? Nothing. It's the fact they lied and was dishonest and kept things from us that we said: 'No, we're fighting for the truth'.

They've been difficult with us throughout, they've put every obstacle they possibly could in our way with everything we've done.

Ultimately we wanted justice for what happened to Luke but also to make it a safe place for people to go to, and if you've got concerns you should be able to go and speak to one of the doctors, make them listen to you.

It shouldn't have come from us to make them do something like this. They should have been doing it anyway but hopefully something good has come from it, maybe.

It'll never go away, it'll always be with us but the constant fighting, battle against the hospital. They've no idea what they've done, going back and forth with all the investigations and they've made us do it all.

They could have stopped it all at the beginning and they've made us relive it all the time and it's always been at the back of our minds - a legal case - when really it's been about what happened to Luke and not a battle of solicitors, lawyers and experts.

It's affected us all and maybe now we can forget the legal battle and just remember Luke. Just Luke, the little boy that he was."

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