A four-year-old boy recovering from heart surgery was so desperate for a glass of water that he resorted to sucking the moisture from tissues used to cool his forehead, his devastated parents told an inquest.
Parents Steve, 47, and Yolanda Turner, 45, told the hearing how they begged doctors and nurses on Ward 32 of Bristol Children's Hospital to help their desperately ill son Sean.
Mr and Mrs Turner, from Warminster, Wiltshire, gave evidence on the opening day of the two-week hearing at Avon Coroner's Court. Sean died in March 2012 from a brain haemorrhage after previously suffering a cardiac arrest – six weeks after he underwent vital corrective heart surgery.
Mr and Mrs Turner accused doctors of transferring their son to Ward 32 from intensive care too soon and said they missed the signs of his worsening condition.
"Sean was deteriorating. We could see it but nobody listened to us. We asked so many times and so many staff if Sean could go back to intensive care as he had been better there," Mrs Turner, a foster carer, said. "We were told there were no beds or that simply he was not critical enough. Over four days Sean had increasing heart rate, was constantly being sick and was becoming so chronically dehydrated he was grabbing tissues used to cool his forehead and suck the water out of them." She said medics told her he was on a fluid restriction, which was normal after a Fontan procedure heart operation.
After suffering a collapse on Ward 32 Sean was transferred to intensive care, where he remained for 11 days. Mrs Turner said his return to Ward 32 had been "the beginning of the end for Sean." He suffered a cardiac arrest on February 16 and returned to the ICU where he remained until dying on March 15.
Her husband, a carpenter, told the inquest: "No parent should ever be put in the situation where they go into a safe environment and have to plead for four days for help and end up having their child having a cardiac arrest in their arms. We now have to live with that horror for the rest of our lives."
But doctors working for the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust, at the children's hospital, said Sean was regularly monitored and his parents' concerns taken on board. In statements read out to the court staff said they followed all procedures set down in "very difficult circumstances". Dr Fiona Reynolds, an intensive care consultant at Birmingham Children's Hospital, said the decision to carry out the Fontan procedure was the correct one.
The inquest was adjourned.