A mother has spoken of her heartache as she waits for answers as to why her 10-year-old son died after a routine kidney stone operation.
Luke Glendenning was “perfectly healthy” and a funny, popular boy when he went in for surgery at Leeds Children’s Hospital in November, but after “more and more things went wrong” and six operations in the space of 72 hours, his parents, from Swarcliffe, had to make the painful decision to switch off life support.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals began an investigation into what happened, but more than three months on, his family still do not what caused things to go so terribly wrong.
Mother Sue Hirst, 34, said: “Apart from the kidney stones, Luke was perfectly healthy. The last time he’d been to the doctor was when he was six years old.
“We weren’t nervous about the operation so Luke wasn’t. He went in quite happily, thinking he’d get a week off school. We never thought for one second when we signed Luke’s consent form that there was risk he might die.”
Luke was admitted for surgery to remove kidney stones on November 6 last year, after a chance discovery of the condition during a trip to A&E in June.
“We were surprised because he’d had no symptoms,” Miss Hirst said. “The operation took double the time it was expected, and when the surgeon came down, he said they had noticed that Luke had an abnormal kidney, and they’d found it difficult to remove the stones.”
However, later that evening, fluid on Luke’s chest and abdomen meant he could not maintain his blood pressure, and he was taken for a second operation, where his left kidney was removed. But he failed to stabilise, and two further operations followed.
“He was on a lot of medication and it seemed that more and more things went wrong,” Miss Hirst said. “He started turning yellow as the fluid from his first operation had damaged his liver and right kidney, so he ended up on dialysis. That made him bloated and he wasn’t getting blood to his limbs, and the doctors couldn’t tell us if he was getting blood to his brain.
“Everything seemed to just fail, it was one thing after another.”
On Wednesday evening he went for a fifth operation to be connected to an ECMO machine to relieve pressure on his heart and lungs, but at 1.30am his heart stopped, and he had to be rushed to theatre again - the sixth time in 72 hours. But did not recover, and Luke died on Thursday November 9.
“We had lots of family around and the nursing staff were absolutely fabulous,” Miss Hirst said. “He just never recovered from that first operation. But it was a routine surgery - how many times must it have been done before? We just can’t understand how things went so wrong.
“When he came out of theatre that first time, he was still sleepy, but I asked ‘are you alright mate?’ and he nodded his head. He never woke up after that.”
Miss Hirst and Luke’s father Richard Glendenning, 38, were told a hospital investigation would take three months, but that is still ongoing.
To add to the family’s torment, last month, they discovered that Luke’s kidney was destroyed without their knowledge, and that his body, which has not yet been cremated, was not stored in a deep freeze, which could potentially hamper any further testing.
Following his death, Luke’s parents sent a detailed complaint to the trust, asking more than 20 questions about his care.
Dr Yvette Oade, chief medical officer for Leeds Teaching Hospitals, offered “sincere condolences” to Luke’s family but was unable to comment while the investigation is ongoing.
She added: “Once the investigation is completed we will invite the family to discuss the findings and provide them with an opportunity to address any outstanding concerns that they may have.”
Classmates’ tribute to the boy ‘everyone wanted to be friends with’
AROUND 300 people attended Luke’s funeral in December, including classmates from Manston Primary School, who performed a song they had written for their friend.
“For a group of 10 and 11 year-olds, that must have been so hard, but they did so well,” Luke’s mother Sue Hirst said.
Luke was a bright and bubbly 10-year-old, funny but with a real sensitive side.
“He was very popular and had lots of friends - he was always either playing on his Xbox or PC, or out on his bike with his friends,” his mum said.
“He was kind.
“When we went to parents’ evening his Year 4 teacher didn’t tell us about things like maths or English, she told us about Luke - how everyone wanted to be his friend and how he was the ‘funny one’, the joker among his friends.
“But he was very sensitive too and would get upset when a particular advert would come on the television.
“He loved YouTube and when he grew up wanted to either by a YouTuber or a RAF pilot.”
Following his death, Luke’s parents have stayed in close contact with his school and his friends. They were invited to watch the school nativity concert, where Luke had been picked to play a wise man, and they found out some of the things the school had planned to remember the popular boy.
Miss Hirst said: “The children had named a star after Luke, and his chair is still there, with nobody allowed to sit on it. They talk about him all the time.”
Luke was an only child and his death has been incredibly painful for his parents.
Miss Hirst said: “We’ve been left without anything, and I can’t help but feel a bit cheated that this has happened to him.
“I’ve left his bedroom as it was, with the door closed, and find it difficult to go in.”