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Teachers of teenager who died on school trip ‘did not refuse doctor request’

·5 min read

The teachers of a teenager who died from sepsis during a school trip to New York have insisted they did not refuse her request to see a doctor.

Ana Uglow, 17, a student at Bristol Grammar School, collapsed in her hotel room and was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai West hospital on December 19 2019.

Avon Coroner’s Court has heard Ana was on a school history trip to Washington, Philadelphia and New York at the time with fellow students and teachers Rory Hambly and Ellice Clare.

Ana’s parents, David and Natalia Uglow, said their daughter told Mr Hambly and Ms Clare that she thought she had a chest infection and asked to see a doctor two days before her death but this had been “refused”.

However, Mr Hambly and Ms Clare said Ana did not directly ask to see a doctor and only complained of symptoms such as feeling tired and having a blocked nose and a cough.

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

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

The teachers said Ana had complained of feeling “tired” in the first few days of the trip and she asked to stay at the hotel while the group went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture on December 16.

She did go to the museum and was seen resting on a bench with a friend, they told the inquest.

On December 17, the group travelled from Washington to Philadelphia by train before going on to New York.

Ana called her mother during the journey, telling her she was worried she had a chest infection, felt much worse and had a fever and a cough.

Mrs Uglow advised Ana to speak to her teachers during the train journey and ask to see a doctor.

Ms Clare told the inquest: “She said that she was feeling a bit ill and she had a cough and she said if she was going to feel worse at any point, maybe in New York, was she able to see a doctor?

“I took that conversation as ‘is that possible on a school trip?’ We said that we would be able to go to a pharmacy if needed and go to a doctor if things got worse.”

Ms Clare said she felt Ana’s forehead to check if she had a temperature but it did not feel hot, and the teachers advised the student to take paracetamol.

“At some point of that train journey from Washington to Philadelphia, we checked in on all the pupils, and checked in on Ana,” she added.

“She said she was feeling better so we felt reassured that the paracetamol had done its job.”

Ms Clare said Ana did not mention a chest infection and insisted she would never refuse a pupil’s request to see a doctor.

Giving evidence, Mr Hambly said that during the train journey Ana 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 told the inquest he said to Ana that she could see a doctor if that was the case.

Later that evening, Ana bought nasal decongestant and cough syrup from a pharmacy in New York.

The following day, on December 18, Ana told her mother she had been sick overnight and asked the teachers if she could stay in the hotel room that day rather than going on a walking tour.

Both teachers said they were not aware that she had been sick and she came on the walking tour before going shopping with a friend.

That evening, Ana was seen coughing and retching into a bin during a visit to the Empire State Building.

“Ana moved to one side and coughed and retched into a bin that was there,” Ms Clare told the inquest.

“Nothing came up and she was not sick.”

Ms Clare said Ana went to the bathroom and splashed her face with water before joining them.

Ana and another student went back to the hotel with Mr Hambly rather than going out for dinner that evening.

On December 19, Ana awoke Mr Hambly at about 6am saying she felt unwell and he went to fetch Ms Clare.

“I got the impression she was anxious because she hadn’t slept, she said that her back was hurting and she had been coughing in the night which kept her awake,” Ms Clare said.

“I spoke to her, trying to calm her down. I wasn’t alarmed by what I saw, she calmed down within minutes.”

She described feeling Ana’s forehead, which was not hot, and checking her pulse, which appeared normal.

Mr Hambly brought Ana a banana and she ate it before taking some painkillers and returning to her room to sleep.

Ms Clare then went to the hotel’s reception desk to inquire about medical centres in the area.

When she was at the desk, another student ran to her and said Ana, who had collapsed, was not well.

“I had absolutely no idea what I was going to be faced with when I got there,” she said.

“I saw Ana lying in her room with Rory saying ‘Ana can you hear me, can you hear me’. He was started to do chest compressions.

“I still can’t comprehend what we saw on that day, I don’t believe it and I was stood there.”

Mr Hambly had already phoned 911 and Ms Clare went to reception to meet emergency services when they arrived.

Ana was taken to hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 10am.

The inquest continues.