Autistic 7-Year-Old’s Death Highlights Medical Oversights and Eating Disorder Struggles

Grieving Mother Shares Heartbreaking Tale of Autistic Son’s Tragic Death

In a poignant revelation, the South Manchester Coroner’s Court in Stockport delved into the tragic death of Alfie Anthony Nicholls, a 7-year-old autistic child who suffered a cardiac arrest in December 2021.

Alfie’s mother, Lucy Morrison, recounted the heart-wrenching journey of her son’s battle with an undiagnosed eating disorder, shedding light on the challenges faced by the family.

Medical Oversights Unveiled in Inquest

During the inquest, it emerged that Lucy Morrison had sought medical attention for Alfie on multiple occasions in the weeks leading up to his death.

Alfie, who was non-verbal and had significant sensory difficulties, faced challenges with eating, resulting in a severely restrictive diet.

Shockingly, medical professionals failed to recognize the severity of his malnutrition, attributing it to his autism.

Tragic Outcome: Cardiac Arrest and Undiagnosed Disorder

Alfie tragically succumbed to a cardiac arrest on December 17, 2021, collapsing at home. Postmortem examinations revealed fractures in three of Alfie’s ribs, indicating the intensity of resuscitation efforts.

Further investigations disclosed evidence of bone marrow atrophy, commonly associated with anorexia or nutrient deficiency conditions.

Inquest Criticizes Medical Professionals and Hospital Apologizes

The inquest criticized doctors for overlooking Alfie’s malnutrition until after his death, prompting an apology from Stepping Hill Hospital bosses for “missed opportunities” in providing timely assistance.

Consultant paediatrician Dr. Elizabeth Newby admitted that medical professionals failed to recognize Alfie’s malnutrition during his lifetime.

Challenges Faced During Alfie’s School Years

Alfie’s challenges intensified after starting school in September 2019. The inquest highlighted that, during school hours, Alfie’s dietary concerns were neglected, with the school nurse never examining him.

Efforts by the speech and language team primarily focused on hydration levels, overlooking nutritional aspects.

Impact of Pandemic: Lack of Weighing and Missed Opportunities

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alfie was not weighed in a pediatric setting throughout 2020 and 2021. When finally weighed in November and December 2021, he had lost 10% of his body weight within just over two months.

The absence of a plan to address his weight loss raised concerns, and three days after the last weigh-in, Alfie collapsed at home and later died.

Pathologist’s Findings and Coroner’s Conclusion

Postmortem examinations revealed chronic malnutrition and bone thinning, consistent with a chronic malnutrition state. The pathologist concluded that malnutrition contributed to Alfie’s cardiac arrest.

In a narrative conclusion, Senior Coroner Alison Mutch recorded Alfie’s sudden death, contributed to by malnutrition, a severely restricted diet, and unrecognized risks.

Call for Awareness: Mother Advocates for ARFID Awareness

Lucy Morrison, devastated by the loss, is now an advocate for awareness of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).

She emphasized the importance of recognizing the struggles of children like Alfie and called for more awareness to ensure children receive the necessary nutrients. Lucy expressed hope that other parents would no longer feel alone in their struggles.

Hospital Apology and Preventive Measures

Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, responsible for Stepping Hill Hospital, issued a deep apology, acknowledging the tragedy and pledging preventive measures.

New guidelines have been introduced to identify warning signs promptly. The coroner intends to write a report urging action to prevent similar tragedies, targeting relevant health and care authorities.

A Mother’s Grief: Tribute to Alfie

Lucy Morrison, Alfie’s mother, shared memories of her son’s vibrant personality, calling him the “most beautiful and happy boy.” She paid tribute to Alfie’s love for nature, walks, swimming, and simple pleasures.

Despite feeling alone and unheard during Alfie’s struggles, Lucy hopes her advocacy will empower other parents facing similar challenges.

In summary, the inquest into Alfie Nicholls’ tragic death exposes systemic failures in recognizing and addressing the challenges faced by autistic children with eating disorders, prompting a call for heightened awareness and preventive measures.