Doctors Dismissed This Little Girl’s Symptoms, But Days Later She Uttered Three Words Before Dying

Elspeth Moore lays in her bed while her father, Steven, lays on the floor. His little girl’s sick, so he stays by her side in the hope that she gets some rest. In just a few minutes, though, he’ll hear her take her last breaths. But before that moment, she says her final three words, and it’s a heartbreaking statement, to say the least.

Elspeth’s parents knew that their five-year-old daughter hadn’t been herself in the week-and-a-half prior to her passing. What started as lethargy – which they credited to the summer 2018 heatwave in Lymington, England – gave way to stomach aches. Then, the little one’s teachers sent her home from school as she was suffering from diarrhea.

After that, Elspeth’s parents took her to see a doctor, who in turn suggested they go to a hospital. Their daughter, it seems, had a fever and was dehydrated. Emergency room doctors then diagnosed the five-year-old with a virus. They suggested giving her small amounts water every few minutes and observing how much she could stomach.

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After that, the Moore family went home, and things seemed to be turning around for Elspeth. Steven admitted at a 2019 inquest, “She was starting to come out of it.” Even the next day, when the little girl’s symptoms made a final resurgence, the couple felt that it was just the virus’s last stand as it left her body.

So, the Moores put their daughter to bed on the night of July 5, and she laid awake until about 11 p.m. Steven came in to switch off the lights and decided to lay on the floor beside his daughter’s bed. That’s when she uttered her last words to him, minutes before her father heard her labored last breath – and long before he found out why his daughter had actually died.

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Elspeth’s parents remember their daughter with a multitude of adjectives. Her father Steven said she was “effervescent” during a 2019 inquest. Meanwhile, her mother called the little girl “beautiful and bright” on her Just Giving page. She also described her daughter as building a legacy of “kindness and humor,” even in five short years of life.

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The youngster also loved going to preschool at Little Wrens, an early education center in her hometown of Lymington, England. As such, in her daughter’s memory, Elspeth’s mom started a Just Giving page to raise money for academic institution. She envisioned a sensory garden planted in honor of the five-year-old’s life.

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As any one with kids can imagine, losing Elspeth left the Moore family “completely devastated,” her mother wrote. The little girl’s death came as a shock, even though she had been sick for the ten days leading up to it. Her parents recalled her feeling ill in the midst of a summer heatwave, and blamed her sickness on the extra-warm weather.

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Elspeth’s lethargy then gave way to a stomachache, but she still went to school after the weekend ended. On Monday, June 25, 2018, the preschool called her mom and asked if she’d pick up the little girl as she’d come down with diarrhea. So, she retrieved the youngster from Little Wrens. And the next day, the the worried mother took her to a doctor.

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By that time, though, Elspeth’s condition had worsened. The doctor advised her mother to take the little one to the hospital, as she had a fever and was suffering from dehydration. As soon as Steven joined them at the pediatric unit, he could tell that his daughter wasn’t quite herself.

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Steven recalled at the inquest, “As Elspeth often did, she was putting a brave face on things. But I could tell she wasn’t her bright, effervescent self.” A lot of that came down to the five-year-old’s terrible abdominal pain. As her dad explained, she described her stomach as feeling like it was “on fire.”

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Dr. Faye Hawkins had an explanation for Elspeth’s terrible pain – she diagnosed the little girl with gastroenteritis. Indeed, the virus’s known symptoms seemed to match the five-year-old’s. Those with the condition suffer from abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever, as well as nausea and vomiting. Unfortunately, because it’s a viral illness, the only treatment is to let it run its course.

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Elspeth’s doctors, however, did come up with a minor remedy for the little girl. They suggested that her parents try giving her five milliliters of water at five-minute intervals to see how much of it she could keep down. They started this hydration challenge while they waited for a bed to become available for her.

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At 8 p.m., though, Elspeth still hadn’t gotten a place to lay down, and she began to grow tired. So, Steven asked Dr. Hawkins what the family could do – the little girl needed to rest. As he recalled it, the doctor indicated that the Moore family could go home if they wanted.

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This, of course, came as welcome news to Steven and his wife, he admitted. At the inquest into Elpeth’s death, he said, “Given that, when we arrived we were freaking out, for want of a better word, to be told she had a virus, I felt quite relieved and happy to go, based on that.”

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Plus, Steven said, he and his wife could always return if their daughter needed further medical attention. Looking back on the situation, though, he realized that Elspeth’s doctors made a mistake. He said, “We weren’t given specific advice on when to come back or [what] things to look out for.”

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Still, things seemed to be going okay when the Moore family returned home. The next day, even, Elspeth appeared to be nearing the end of her viral infection. Steven recalled this being a relief for him and his wife. He said, “We felt optimistic, she was starting to come out of it.”

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Nevertheless, on July 5, Elspeth’s symptoms worsened once again. This time, she couldn’t keep anything down – a typical symptom of gastroenteritis. But Steven and his wife didn’t worry too much about the five-year-old’s vomiting. Instead, they believed that this was the virus rearing its ugly head one last time.

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Still, when Elspeth went to bed that night, Steven made a point to check on his daughter every 30 minutes, since she had been sick all day. His 11 p.m. check-up revealed that the little one was awake. So, he told the five-year-old that he’d lay beside her on the bedroom floor.

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So, Steven turned the lights off in his daughter’s room and reclined on the floor beside her. He remembered telling her that he loved her, and Elspeth muttered a simple, three-word response. “Love you, Daddy,” she replied. Little did her father know, that would be the last thing she would ever say.

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As Steven recalled it, the scene went from sweet to terrifying in a flash. As he told the inquest, “It can only have been five or ten minutes later, I heard her making a weird noise, like something was catching in her throat.” When he asked Elspeth what was wrong, she didn’t say anything.

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Steven then said to Elspeth, “Do you want to sit up, darling?” When he moved her body, though, it became clear that something was urgently wrong with the five-year-old. He said, “I sat her up, at which point her head just flopped back and her eyes rolled up.” So, he began to administer CPR immediately.

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Paramedics rushed to the Moores’ home, and they continued CPR on the way to Southampton General Hospital. Staffers there tried it, too, but the efforts to revive Elspeth did not work. Doctors pronounced the five-year-old dead a mere hour after her father had come in to shut off her bedroom lights.

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After Elspeth died, Dr. Darren Fowler completed an autopsy on her body. The pediatric pathologist found that the five-year-old had not been suffering from gastroenteritis, as Dr. Hawkins initially asserted. Instead, she had appendicitis, which progressed to the point where it caused her body to develop sepsis.

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Experts do not know the purpose that the appendix serves in the body. They also have no idea exactly why it can start to swell. But, sometimes, a blockage to the entrance of the appendix can be all it takes for this approximately four-inch pouch to develop a painful condition known as appendicitis.

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In most cases, appendicitis begins with intermittent pain in the center of the abdomen. It only takes a few hours for that ache to travel to the bottom right of the area – that’s where the appendix resides. Then, the pain becomes constant and more intense. Pressing this abdominal zone makes it feel even worse.

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Once a doctor realizes that a patient has appendicitis, they send them into surgery to have the pouch removed. An appendectomy tends to be a quick procedure, with some patients heading home a mere 24 hours afterward. And the speed with which the procedure takes place matters. Indeed, the appendix can become so swollen that it bursts, causing even more danger to the patient.

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Namely, a burst appendix then leads to peritonitis, in which the abdominal lining gets infected by the lingering bacteria. Sometimes, the infection causes damage to the major organs housed in the abdomen. And patients definitely suffer throughout – symptoms can include high temperature, continuous stomach pain, vomiting and rapid breathing.

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Elspeth’s case mimicked that of many others who have suffered appendicitis, including diarrhea due to the swollen abdominal pouch. However, she didn’t have the tell-tale ache in the bottom right of her stomach. And that’s because the five-year-old’s appendix sat in an abnormal position.

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So, doctors didn’t suspect Elspeth had appendicitis, which gave her appendix time to swell, burst and cause a painful case of peritonitis. Without treatment, the infection gave way to sepsis, a condition sparked as her body tried to fight off the peritonitis. But it responded with a chemically imbalanced defense that hurt more than it helped.

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During the inquest into Elspeth’s death, Dr. Hawkins said she screened the little girl for sepsis, but her fever wasn’t high enough. The physician also considered appendicitis, but, she explained, “In the absence of a tender abdomen I thought it was less likely.” It, therefore, seemed “more likely” that the five-year-old had gastroenteritis, she concluded.

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Dr. Hawkins went on to defend her decision-making process in terms of treating Elspeth’s dehydration. Indeed, some wondered why she didn’t put the child on a drip. She reiterated, “We made a plan to do a fluid challenge. […] It’s a structured way of making an assessment of whether a child needs extra fluids.”

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On top of that, Dr. Hawkins had to speak on her choice to allow the Moores to take Elspeth home, instead of keeping her overnight for observation. She couldn’t, however, necessarily defend such a move. Instead, she said, “With retrospect, should I have encouraged [them] to stay? Maybe. It’s a very tricky situation.”

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In most cases, Dr. Hawkins explained, medical professionals should try and accommodate the patient’s wishes. So, because the Moores had asked to take their daughter home, she made the situation work. And, the physician said, she had given the parents all the advice they needed to care for the little girl. And if she got worse, they were to bring her back to the hospital.

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At the inquest, though, Elspeth’s mom challenged this notion. She said Dr. Hawkins didn’t give them enough information. Namely, she didn’t know that the physician wanted to lead a second round of observations. The grieving mother said, “We were caring parents, we knew something was wrong and we would have stayed.”

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Ultimately, coroner Grahame Short concluded that Elspeth had passed away from natural causes. He wrote, “The death of a five-year-old girl in these circumstances is self-evidently sad. We don’t expect children to die of such afflictions in this way. Neither the pathologist or the clinicians can say when the appendicitis started, but it is my belief it was definitely happening at that time [she fell ill].”

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In Short’s conclusion, he didn’t cast blame on the physician for her diagnosis. Instead, he wrote, “I find the symptoms were ambiguous and […] entirely consistent with a gastric infection. It was not unreasonable for [Dr. Hawkins] to prefer that diagnosis. It was not a classic example of someone with pain in their abdomen and therefore it was not an unreasonable diagnosis.”

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Where Short did disagree with hospital staff, though, was when they sent the Moores home with Elspeth. The coroner felt they didn’t have enough information to take care of their sick daughter. “More importantly,” he wrote, the medical team failed to highlight “what to look out for [if it became necessary] to bring her back to [the] hospital.”

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Obviously, the decision to stay or go became clearer to the Moores in hindsight. At the inquest, Steven said, “At no point was it ever mentioned to us that the diagnosis could potentially be appendicitis. […] If we had known this was even a possibility then we would obviously have stayed.”

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Of course, this tragedy also affected the staff at the medical institution where it took place. Peter Wilson, who serves as a clinical director for the University Hospital Southampton’s women and children’s services, publicly said as much. After the inquest into Elspeth’s death, he also vowed to use the her loss to improve his facility’s practice. It would be yet another legacy for the bright, bubbly five-year-old to leave behind – one that might save lives in the future.

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