Mistakes in treating low potassium levels led to the death of Christie Henderson who had developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) during Christmas last year.

The family of much-loved mum Christie, who had type 1 diabetes, hope lessons will be learnt to avoid any repeat of the tragedy in the future.

Christie Henderson, aged 29, died of cardiac arrest at Sunderland Royal Hospital on Boxing Day last year. She had lived with type 1 diabetes for seven years.

Having been taken ill after a Christmas night out on December 23, she was taken to hospital the following evening. Blood tests revealed she was suffering with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a potentially life-threatening complication of type 1 diabetes caused by insulin deficiency.

Hospital staff monitored Christie’s potassium levels, but on December 26, Christie’s potassium reached dangerously low levels and she went into cardiac arrest and died.

An inquest at Sunderland Coroner’s Court found that there were “missed opportunities” by hospital staff to counteract Christie’s falling potassium levels which led to her death.

Assistant Coroner Karin Welsh described the death as “deeply concerning” and said: “If potassium chloride had been introduced at an earlier point it may well have been the levels would not have dropped to the level they did.”

The two-day inquest heard that there were 10 opportunities in which potassium chloride could have been administered to counteract the low levels.

In a statement the family said: “Christie’s untimely death was avoidable. We hope that the lessons learned by the Sunderland Royal Hospital from her passing are indeed all put into place.”

Dr Shaz Wahid, Medical Director at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, apologised and said: “There were aspects of Christie’s care that fell unacceptably short of the high standards we set ourselves and a number of actions have taken place to prevent this from happening again.”

The actions include an extensive training programme regarding protocols for patients and improving electronic patient records to better highlight abnormal results.

Dr Wahid added, “Whilst this does not change the heart-breaking outcome for Christie and her family, I can strongly reassure people that we have taken all possible steps to prevent anything like this happening in the future.”

Picture credit: Family handout / BBC

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