Grieving parents of 20-year-old amateur Northampton footballer who died suddenly of 'infection' demand answers from NHS

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"We're grieving parents. I don't want to see any more grieving parents"

The grieving parents of a 20-year-old Northampton amateur footballer have questioned health authorities about the sudden death of their son - and they want answers.

Luke Abrahams, from East Hunsbury, died on the operating table at Northampton General Hospital on Sunday, January 23 after first complaining about a sore throat a week before.

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The former Abbeyfield School student was well-known in the Northants football community, playing for Blisworth FC and Hunsbury Hawks FC and also having associations with AFC Spinney.

Dad Richard Abrahams and mother Julie Needham want answers about the process which led to the death of their son, Luke AbrahamsDad Richard Abrahams and mother Julie Needham want answers about the process which led to the death of their son, Luke Abrahams
Dad Richard Abrahams and mother Julie Needham want answers about the process which led to the death of their son, Luke Abrahams

Dad Richard Abrahams and mum Julie Needham said: "We just can't believe he's not here anymore. We keep thinking he's out with his mates and he's going to be home any minute."

A post-mortem exam has revealed Luke died of natural causes including septicaemia, Lemierre syndrome (a form of bacterial infection), and necrotising fasciitis (a type of flesh-eating disease).

Despite receiving the cause of death, the parents say there are still “a lot of unanswered questions”, particularly with the way Luke's treatment was handled by healthcare providers.

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The healthcare providers in question are: Penvale Medical Centre in East Hunsbury, the 111 service, East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS), and Northampton General Hospital.

Luke AbrahamsLuke Abrahams
Luke Abrahams


Here is a timeline of the seven days before Luke's death, told by Julie.

Luke first became ill on Sunday, January 15, telling his mum he thought he had tonsillitis because his throat had flared up.

The next day, (Monday, January 16) Luke called his GP, Penvale Park Medical Centre in Hardwick Road, East Hunsbury and was prescribed antibiotics.

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However, when mum Julie went to pick up the antibiotics from her local pharmacy they did not have any, neither did Sainsbury's, Boots or Tesco Extra because of a national shortage.

On Tuesday, January 17, Luke waited for a call back from a doctor at Penvale Medical Centre but never got one. He rang 111 who told him to go to Northampton General Hospital A&E. He text his mum saying he was going to be put on an intravenous drip, but left two hours later without that happening, leaving Julie confused.

On Wednesday, January 18, Luke complained about cramp in his leg that was causing him pain all throughout the day and night. The family called 111. A doctor later called via video and said he believed Luke had sciatica and was prescribed naproxen, a strong pain killer.

On Friday, January 20, Luke's pain was getting “worse and worse”. He was saying, “I can't take this pain anymore, it really hurts,” according to Julie. She called 999, who said Luke “wasn't critical” and that she should contact Penvale Park to organise transport to A&E for him.

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Julie said: "I passed this message on to Penvale Medical Centre and, two hours later, they said they have never heard of anything like that. I was getting angry now because he really wasn't well and I couldn't get him to the hospital. Nobody had taken responsibility."

Julie then called 999 back and an ambulance was sent to their East Hunsbury house. "Luke was really worried at this point," she said.

An ambulance crew came over and did tests that found Luke's heart rate and blood pressure were high, but the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) crew said that it was due to him fighting the infection in his throat.

Richard said: "Alarm bells should have rang for me then, 'fighting a bacterial infection'. They also did a sugar level test and said it was high and asked if Luke had diabetes, which he didn't. Alarm bells should have rung. All they said was that on Monday he needs to go to the GP for a diabetes check. If your blood sugar level is high, they should have taken him to the hospital straight away. It should never be that high. The ambulance crew said 'our job is to make sure he can walk to the toilet' and that was it."

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On Sunday, January 22, Luke said “I just can't take this anymore”. The family called 111, who called for an EMAS ambulance again.

Julie said: "They took him into hospital for further checks and that was it, we got a call at 1am from Luke saying can you come down they want to see you, and that's when we were told he has a 50/50 chance of living, that he's really poorly, he's got this bacterial eating infection and it's a life-threatening situation. We were shocked but thought to ourselves, 'they can save him', we put our trust in them. They said this is a life-threating operation, we might have to amputate his leg. They amputated his leg but said he was too far gone. No one has explained why they decided to amputate his leg.

"I think Luke knew he was going to die after what he said to me on the operating table. He said, 'Dad, I'll be okay, you take care of Jake and mum'. That's when I felt he knew he was going to die. I get the impression they [doctors] said a lot more to him than to us. Luke was trying to protect us because that's Luke.

"If they knew he was going to die, why did they take off his leg? If it's all inside his body, don't cut him to pieces.

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"We watched 20 people working on him in theatre and he didn't pull through."


Richard and Julie said they are worried that this could happen to “any child”.

The parents said: “Somewhere along the line someone hasn't done their job properly. I think the NHS are cutting corners. I'm not saying he'd still be here now, but I wouldn't be sitting here with a cause of death letter that I think is a load of rubbish. There are failings with the medical centre, A&E, the ambulance crew.

"He was 20 years old. We want answers. There are a lot of unanswered questions.

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"It's a catalogue of errors. No one's going to bring him back but I want these people punished. I want to talk to someone from the medical law industry if they can get in touch.

"I'm not taking any of that, 'we'll learn from our mistakes', there's too much of that going on, someone should have taken him in for a proper test. I hope they feel guilty about all this.

"We're grieving parents. I don't want to see any more grieving parents."

The parents paid tribute to their popular and loved son.

They said: "We're a close family. Luke was a family man. It was always the four of us. We did everything together.

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"He was such a popular boy. I knew he had mates but not that many mates. It's like everybody knows him. He used to say to me, 'everybody knows me'. He's a caring boy, always has been. Always been a character. Always liked to be the centre of attention. It will never ever be the same. I just can't believe this has happened to us. We're never going to get back to normal life, but we want to get back to some sort of life."

Richard and Julie warned others who may find themselves in a similar position.

They said: "Demand that you have a blood test. Doctors should not be prescribing things if they have not seen the patient. How can you diagnose someone without seeing them? If the GP does that, phone 111 and demand to go to A&E. If you've got a throat infection, get it properly looked at. They have to do more. "

NHS response

Integrated Care Northamptonshire responded on behalf of all of the healthcare providers which were involved with Luke in the week of his death.

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A spokesperson for Integrated Care Northamptonshire said: “On behalf of the NHS in Northamptonshire, we wish to express our sincere condolences to the family and our thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.

"All providers are reviewing the care and treatment provided in this case and until such time as their reviews are completed, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”