Woman dies after being sent home from hospital 18 times
In the early hours on the first day of 2016, when most people were still celebrating the beginning of a new year, Naomi Williams drove herself to hospital alone.
The journey was an all too familiar one - in fact, it was the 18th time that the 27-year-old had arrived at Tumut District Hospital, in the NSW Riverina region, in the past eight months, complaining of nausea and abdominal pain.
What is sepsis?
This time, just like all the others, the woman, who was six months pregnant, was given Panadol and sent home. Fifteen hours later, the young mum-to-be was dead.
Sepsis infection wasn't identified by doctors
Naomi suffered a cardiac arrest in the back of an ambulance, the final stage of an overwhelming bacterial sepsis infection, Buzzfeed reported.
Sepsis is treatable with antibiotics but for treatment to be effective the infection needs to be spotted early.
Tragically, this wasn't the case for Naomi - both she and her unborn baby died a short time later.
The question now is not what killed her - but whether anyone could have prevented it.
In an inquest that began on Monday in Gundagai, the court heard that Naomi had been complaining of vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain for at least eight months.
Although she tested positive for Helicobacter pylori in June, a stomach bacteria that can cause pain and nausea, doctors still labelled the cause of her symptoms as "unknown."
She was later diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (excessive morning sickness).
She believed the staff at the hospital weren't taking her seriously. It wasn't until December 17 that the 27-year-old was finally referred to Canberra Hospital - Naomi had lost four kilograms in just two weeks.
"Had Naomi been clearly identified as a high-risk maternity patient, either at the time or much earlier in her pregnancy, would events have unfolded differently from the early hours of January 1?" counsel assisting the coroner Lesley Whalan SC asked the court.
But instead, the court learnt that Naomi believed the staff at the hospital were not taking her illness seriously.
According to Whalan hospital records "suggest a non-urgent presentation for mild symptoms of generalised aches and pain, any abnormality in vital signs lasting no longer than 15 minutes".
However, text messages that Naomi sent to a friend paint a drastically different story.
"You wouldn't be able to get me to the hospital, would you? I can barely move," Naomi messaged a friend who was out of town.
"Just my body aching all over, all good I'll get there. Thanks anyways," Naomi replied.
Sonia Piper, Williams' godmother, told Buzzfeed that the entire family was devastated to lose both Williams and her baby.
"I wouldn't like this to happen to any Aboriginal people ever again because a lot of our people are dying out … and we need the care. And I think we're entitled to the same as the non-Indigenous people," she said.
"I keep saying to everybody, why wasn't she sent to a specialist somewhere in Sydney or Canberra? To really find out what was wrong with her? Because they were just giving her Panadol and sending her home. And if that poor woman was vomiting all the time and being sick, what was that doing to that little baby inside of her?"
The inquest continues.