Upper Bann Assembly member Doug Beattie believes that “delays and a missed diagnosis” contributed significantly towards the death of his 15-month-old grandson, who was found dead in bed on the day before the May 5 Stormont elections.
Little Cameron Tindale is believed to have suffered a second seizure, which claimed his life. The first was in mid-March, when he underwent an Electroencephalography (EEG) at Craigavon Area Hospital, which records electrical activity of the brain.
Speaking for the first time since the death, on behalf Cameron’s devastated parents Leigh and Mark, Mr Beattie said, “We were told at the hospital that the EEG would be sent to Belfast and that the results would be with us within days.”
But the results did not reach the Tindales’ home in Craigavon until May 6, the day Cameron was laid to rest. Letters from the Southern Health and Social Care Trust were waiting for them after they returned from the funeral.
The first letter stated, “Whilst the EEC does not show any signs suggestive of epilepsy, Cameron may have an underlying higher risk of having a seizure than another child.” It recommended a second EEG “within the next few months… once Cameron has a chance to fully recover from the episode in March.”
The second letter asked them to arrange an appointment for the second EEG. If they failed to do so within two weeks, the appointment would go to another patient.
Said Mr Beattie, “We were in pieces. In our view, the diagnosis was missed. If the hospital had, as we were told, contacted us within a few days, perhaps the appropriate treatment could have been started. We’ll never know.
“Now, we will have to wait for the findings of the coroner’s report, and whether there will be an inquest. A lot of questions will have to be answered.”
He added, “We’d never known such grief, such devastation, when Cameron died. The entire family was totally numbed – we were virtually crippled with grief. He died on the day before the Stormont elections, and I couldn’t have cared less about politics.
“He was laid to rest while I was literally being elected at the count on the Friday, but that just didn’t register with us. It was all a nightmare.”
A Captain (Rtd) of the Royal Irish Regiment, Mr Beattie, who holds the Military Cross and other major honours, has taken part in 14 campaigns, including Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, Northern Ireland and Bosnia. He said he had never experience such devastating emotions as the loss of Cameron, “a loving, lovable child, adored by us all.”
He added that many people outside the family had assumed that Cameron’s older brother Bradley (5) was the victim. Bradley has microcephaly, an underdeveloped brain condition, which is in the world headlines due to the Zika virus. It is affecting South American countries, especially Brazil, where the Olympic Games are being held.
There were no suggestions of anything being amiss with Cameron, who has another older brother, Tristan (8). The family will never get over the sudden and unexpected death of their youngest child.
There is another unfortunate sadness within it all. Mr Beattie’s election agent during the campaign was Mrs Julie Flaherty, who said, “Cameron’s death took away a sense of victory from the campaign when Doug was elected, along with his UUP colleague Jo-Anne Dobson. It cast a terrible shadow over our entire election.”
Three years ago, in May 2013, Mrs Flaherty’s only child Jake died in the Royal Hospital in Belfast, days after his second birthday was celebrated on the ward. He had Down’s Syndrome and profound heart and respiratory complications, “and Cameron’s death brought it all back vividly”.
With Mr Beattie being elected to the Assembly, Mrs Flaherty was co-opted to his seat on the ABC Council – three years to the day from Jake’s death.
Mr Beattie said, “I could hardly bring myself to sign the papers to join the Assembly, such was our grief. Still, it will give us all something on which we can focus.”
The Southern Healthcare Trust has issued a response following Mr Beattie’s claims.
In a statement, it said: “The death of any child is a tragedy and we offer our condolences to Cameron’s parents and family.
“It is simply not appropriate for the Trust to publicly discuss the details of any individual patient, and so we are unable to comment on the issues raised.
“However, we appreciate that there may be issues that the family would like to discuss with the Trust, and we are happy to meet with the family, or their representatives, as soon as it is possible to arrange this.”