Mother reveals nine-year-old’s final 42 hours before she died after a fall off a swing.

Leila Baartse-Harkin’s grieving mother has revealed the moment she called a hospital screaming her nine-year-old daughter ‘looked like death,’ after spending two agonising days being told by doctors she ‘just had gastro.’

Leila jumped off a swing and hurt her stomach at a Adelaide playground on September 29, 2015 . Her parents rushed her to two separate hospitals, but they were sent home. Sadly she died 42 hours after the accident.

An autopsy revealed her cause of death to be peritonitis due to a perforated small bowel.

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An inquest heard on Monday Leila vomited several times before her death and one of her doctors ‘regretted’ not doing a physical examination on the little girl hours before she stopped breathing and passed away on the couch.

‘We had absolutely no idea she was dying,’ mother Edie Harkin told Daily Mail Australia. ‘We thought maybe she was in shock.’

Leila was complaining of stomach pains, vomiting and was unable to lie down as her ‘stomach was hurting.’

‘A doctor asked her to stand up, examined her like that, got her to do a little jump and then said it was alright for her to go home,’ Ms Harkin said.

They were told there was gastro going around and assured them it could be completely coincidental.

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‘My recollection was there were no instructions given to us on what to do once we took her home.’

Leila continuined to complain of stomach pains and once she got home, continued to vomit.

‘Her vomit was really dark, it was almost black,’ Ms Harkin said.

Leila become unresponsive as she lay on the couch at home and her parents rushed her to Strathalbyn Hospital.

On arriving they found it was locked and proceeded to bang on the doors.

‘They expect you to call ahead first,’ Ms Harkin said. ‘It says “emergency department” on the front door but it’s not.’

Mr Harkin called an ambulance to the hospital, which initiated the on-call doctors to be rushed in.

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‘Doctors managed to get Leila’s heart going, but she was basically on life support for an hour,’ Ms Harkin said. ‘They then said they recommend they stop.’ Leila was pronounced dead at 8am on Thursday morning.

Leila’s family have begun to campaign for an escalation process in relation to the health care system, including starting a petition to introduce ‘Leila’s Lifeline.’

‘The introduction of “Leila’s Lifeline” would provide a phone line escalation process for South Australian parents and caregivers who believe their child or patient has been misdiagnosed or if their concerns are not being heard by a hospital’s treating health professionals,’ Ms Harkin said in the petition that has since gained almost 4000 supporters.

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‘There are serious issues within the health care system in South Australia, if not all of Australia, and I think that was a fairly big factor in what happened,’ she said.

‘In my own observations there seems to be a lack of inclusive practice within hospitals, which really listens to parents and checks in on them and what they think their child needs.’

UPDATE 13 December 2016

A doctor from the Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital has told an inquest into the child’s death that Leila did not have a perforated bowel when she was first examined, reports ABC news.

A lawyer representing her family, Claire O’Connor SC, questioned whether clinical observations and assessments were sufficient ahead of Leila’s discharge from the Adelaide hospital.

Emergency department duty registrar, Amy McMellon, told the hearing Leila was discharged by a more senior doctor, Elissa Pearton, after showing signs of improvement, namely less pain and discomfort.

“The injury that killed her was a bowel perforation that caused peritonitis … she did not have that when I saw her,” Dr McMellon told the coroner.

She conceded the only way to exclude a bowel perforation would have been by operating.

“If it was big enough, [a CT scan] might have seen it, if it was a very small perforation, they might not have seen it,” Dr McMellon said.

The inquest heard such a scan was not done but that medical staff performed an x-ray, an abdominal pressure pain test and a jump test to assess any pain.

Our hearts go out to Leila’s family. Such a tragedy that should never have happened.

Share your thoughts below.

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  • So sad I couldn’t imagine my anger if this happened to my own child


  • I remember when this happened, absolutely awful, and must not be allowed to happen again.


  • That is heartbreaking, it terrifiesme hearing so many stories of serious injuries being dismissed at hospitals


  • That is such a tragic event


  • Wow this is so sad!
    I’ve heard so many stories of people complaining about something and medical staff just dismissing it.
    I think if someone knows their body and it just doesn’t feel right they should keep pushing until something bigger is done.
    Prayers for the family.


  • How awful that this little girl was in so much pain the last days of her life, there is just no good DRs these days.


  • how very sad – rest in peace angel x


  • So sad :-( this family (as no doubt many others) would have had a sad Christmas without their baby girl


  • Such a beautiful young life cut short that is so sad. Leila is in the Angels arms but she should be at home in her mum’s arms. I can’t believe that that person who calls themselves DOCTOR (he/she probably has a doctors degree but from what country) did not order any scans to check if there is anything wrong. I feel for the family and their grief.


  • that is so sad. i would support this line. do something to honour that little girl’s memory. how sad! how scary!


  • I feel for your loss & your pain.


  • sometimes we do get forgotten by the doctors as they are either short staff, too busy or having to deal with parents who wont give up on their child when there is nothing wrong etc…. if you feel there is something wrong with your child/ren , don’t stop, keep pushing until your pleased.
    may this girl fly over and watches her family by.


  • I feel for the family. Guess it shows that doctors and nurses make mistakes and are human – but I’m sure they too will be wondering how they could have done better.


  • Feel for the family as they grieve the loss of their beautiful daughter. This should have been examined better by the hospitals. Shame I hope the doctors will be charged with her death and not be allowed to practice anymore.


  • This is so tragic and scary. Some doctors and nurses really don\’t listen to parents as they think they are bubble wrapping their kids. Parents really need to follow their instincts and push for more care when they feel the need to – don\’t leave the hospital if you don\’t trust the doctor\’s opinion and ask someone else.
    A similar thing happened to me 5 years ago – my 1 year old was vomiting and had severe stomach pain and the emergency doctor said it was gastro and for her to go home and drink hydralyte. I said no (because I \”knew\” in my gut it was something serious), another doctor came on duty, ordered an ultrasound and found something serious. She needed surgery to save her life. I am so grateful she is still with us now. I can\’t imagine what would have happened if I had listened to that first doctor.


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