Bristol pupil died of sepsis on US trip ‘after telling teachers she felt unwell’

A teenager died from sepsis on a school trip to New York after telling teachers she felt unwell, an inquest heard.

Ana Uglow, 17, a student at Bristol grammar school, was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai West hospital in December 2019.

Avon coroner’s court heard she was on a school trip to Washington, Philadelphia and New York at the time.

Her parents said Ana told teachers she thought she had a chest infection and asked to see a doctor two days before her death, but this was “refused”.

However, a teacher told the inquest Ana had only complained of feeling tired and having a blocked nose, and did not directly ask to see a doctor.

The inquest, due to last for five days, heard Ana collapsed in her hotel room on the morning of December 19 and was pronounced dead after arriving at the hospital.

A report by the chief medical examiner of the city of New York concluded that Ana, of Redland, Bristol, had died from bronchopneumonia and sepsis complicating an influenza upper respiratory infection.

In a statement read to the inquest, Ana‘s mother Natalia Uglow described how she was a “conscientious” student who was very active in the school and was a senior prefect.

Ana had been off school with a cold-like symptoms for two days before the trip but felt better and set off to Washington from Bristol early on 14 December.

The following day, Ana told her mother that she was “exhausted” and had done a walking tour of Washington with fellow students and teachers Rory Hambly and Ellice Clare.

On 16 December, Ana “described that she had no energy to walk” and had asked to stay at the hotel while the group went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

They travelled by train from Washington to Philadelphia on 17 December and Ana called her mother several times during the journey.

“Ana said that she was worried she had a chest infection, that she felt much worse and had a fever and a cough,” Mrs Uglow said.

“I was concerned about her and said to Ana to speak to the teachers and ask them to see a doctor and phone me back. I told her to exaggerate her symptoms if necessary to get the result and say that her parents were concerned.

“I also offered to speak to them myself. I believe Ana spoke to Mr Hambly as she reported back that Mr Hambly had told her that she would have had a higher temperature if she had a chest infection and advised her to take paracetamol.

“I was also told he had also suggested that they go to a pharmacist in Philadelphia to get some stronger drugs and that if she felt worse in New York they would take her to a doctor.”

Later that day, Ana sent her mother a text message to say she was feeling “a bit better”.

Mrs Uglow told the inquest: “She was concerned, she was worried and to my dying day I will never forgive myself for not following through my request for her to see a doctor and not phoning the teachers myself and putting pressure on them.”

On 18 December, Ana told her mother she had not slept as she was sick and had asked the teachers if she could stay in her hotel room that day but they had “forced her to go on a walking tour as they could not leave her alone”.

The following day, Dr Uglow received a phone call from the school’s headteacher stating that Ana was in a critical condition in hospital.

Giving evidence, Hambly said Ana complained of feeling tired and having a blocked nose in the days before her death.

On the train journey, she asked “about if she was feeling worse in New York what would the situation be about getting to a doctor” but did not directly ask to see one, he said.

On 18 December, Ana came on the walking tour before shopping with a friend but that evening she had a “coughing fit” and “lent over a bin and retched” during a tour of the Empire State Building, he said.

Hambly was awoken by Ana knocking on his door complaining of feeling unwell, her heart racing and a sore back at about 6.30am on 19 December.

He said Ana was walking and talking “normally” and returned to her hotel room but about an hour later, her friend came and said she was unwell.

“Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what the next few minutes were going to bring,” Hambly said.

Ana collapsed in the room shortly after Hambly arrived. He called the emergency services and she was taken to hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 10am.

The inquest continues.

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