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Maddy Lawrence: Student who died from sepsis 'wasn't listened to in screams of pain', say parents

A student who died in hospital after her sepsis infection went unnoticed "wasn't listened to in screams of pain", her parents have told Sky News.

Maddy Lawrence, 20, was playing rugby for the University of the West of England (UWE) women's second team against the University of Bristol when she was injured after being tackled in March 2022.

She dislocated her hip and was taken to Southmead Hospital in Bristol, but died just over two weeks later from multiple organ failure and after staff missed the crucial window to treat the sepsis.

An inquest found gross failures in her treatment at the hospital and neglect contributed to her death.

Speaking to Sky's The UK Tonight, her parents described the "agony" she went through on the ward and the regret they felt at not making "more of a fuss" to the staff at the time.

Her mother Karen Lawrence said: "You put your faith and trust in the medical profession. We didn't make a fuss because they must know what they are doing. Had we [done so], she would have still been with us.

"She should have been home by the weekend. She wasn't listened to in screams of pain... and was considered to be a difficult patient. She must have been in absolute agony."

Mrs Lawrence said her dying daughter was not observed over a 16-hour period - one of the reasons why they welcome the rollout of Martha's Rule by the NHS in England from April.

With this new law, patients can request a rapid second opinion if they are worried about a condition getting worse or their family feels they are not getting the care they need.

The new process follows the death in 2021 of 13-year-old Martha Mills, who also developed sepsis under the care of King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London.

Maddy's father, Simon Lawrence, said alongside Martha's Rule, people should be aware of the National Early Warning Score (NEWS), which determines the degree of illness of a patient and whether critical care intervention is needed.

The scoring system is based on certain physiological measurements, such as respiration rate, oxygen saturation and systolic blood pressure.

Following Maddy's death, North Bristol NHS Trust chief medical officer, Tim Whittlestone had said: "As a parent, I can think of nothing worse than knowing there were missed opportunities which could have affected Maddy's outcome.

"Despite the rarity of Maddy's condition and the heroic efforts of many of our clinical teams, we acknowledge, and apologise for, the omissions in her care."

Read more:
Martha's Rule will only be change for good if properly resourced
Neglect played part in 14-day-old baby's death

'Twinkle toes' rugby player

Describing life without Maddy, her parents said they "bear a weight the whole time" and described their other daughter Juliette as having such "fortitude" given she and her sister were very close.

They reminisced about Maddy and her nickname 'twinkle toes', which came from her speed as a winger.

Mrs Lawrence said: "She was very fast and when she found rugby she found her speed to a huge advantage. She was loud, energetic and bold."

Mr Lawrence said the parents didn't "bear any ill will to her opponent" who tackled her, adding: "It was just a really unfortunate set of circumstances that led to the dislocation."

He added when Maddy was first admitted to hospital she joked about her first ever rugby injury as "a bit of a doozy" in line with her "good spirit".

The parents have launched Maddy's March, a fundraising campaign for the whole month, which they hope will become an annual event.

People taking part are being asked to embrace the number 104 - the number of weeks since Maddy died.

Mrs Lawrence said among participants joining in are those who are running, walking, and swimming 104 km, one person has baked 104 cakes and the University of Chichester has made 104 dips into the sea.