South Shields dad died after taking seriously ill on Singapore holiday

Luke Wilkinson, pictured, left, and with his family, died after being flown home after being taken seriously ill on holiday.
Luke Wilkinson, pictured, left, and with his family, died after being flown home after being taken seriously ill on holiday.

A much-loved dad who died after being flown home after taking seriously ill on holiday suffered major organ failure after widespread infection, an inquest heard.

Luke Wilkinson, 37, an engineering consultant originally from Marsden, South Shields, had moved to Kuala Lumpur with his family - wife Di, 34, and children Jude, six, and Finn, four - after taking a job at an oil and gas company.

He contracted several tropical infections while working abroad, for which he had been undergoing treatment.

But tragedy struck during a family break at the Siloso Beach Resort, in Singapore, last year when he collapsed.

The former Harton Technology College pupil was diagnosed with liver failure as a result of the medication he was receiving for tropical infections, and was flown home to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

Sadly, he died at the hospital last October.

An inquest into his death, held today at Newcastle Civic Centre, heard he had battled several infections, including tropical diseases.

Some years prior, he had been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis, and was on immunosuppressant medication, for which he had to undergo quarterly blood tests, but was otherwise fit and healthy.

Newcastle Coroner Karen Dilks heard how, tragically, the extent of the damage to Mr Wilkinson’s organs only became apparent after his death.

Home Office pathologist Dr Nigel Cooper, who carried out the post mortem, found widespread viral, bacterial and fungal infections affecting most of his body's vital organs, including the heart, brain and liver.

Dr Cooper, who has 33 years’ experience in the field, said: “Whilst anybody could get these infections, it is unusual in a young, fit man and generally as a consequence of immunosuppression.

“One explanation is the medication he was on. Although I can’t tell that for sure it’s a reasonable probability.

“I don’t think I have ever seen such a widespread infection in one person, and, this was in addition to the damage to his vital organs.”

Dr Cooper said that although medics carried out a liver biopsy which caused a large bleed, he did not feel it was relevant to the death.

His family also queried a period of 90 minutes when he was taken off dialysis. They were, however, told this would not have had an impact.

The inquest heard the use of anabolic steroids may have further weakened his immune system.

Recording a narrative conclusion, Ms Dilks said: “Luke died due to natural causes to which the immunosuppressive effects of medical treatment contributed.”

Barry Speker, solicitor for Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Every effort was made by a large team of experts in different specialties.

“As found by the Coroner, despite all possible treatment, the course of the rare and complex illness could not be reversed.

“The Trust expresses its sincere condolences to the family of Luke Wilkinson on his tragic death.”

After the inquest, Luke’s wife Di, who now lives back in South Shields, spoke of how their sons are coping almost a year after the death of their father.

“They are doing as well as they can without their dad,” she said. “Kids are quite resilient.

“Finn turned four on August 29. It was hard to explain to him why his dad couldn’t be at the party, like he was last year.”

And Jude, who will be seven on October 10, started Lord Blyton Primary School on Tuesday without his dad at his side.

Di said: “Everything is hard. We have quite simply been looking to get the first year over and done with.

“I have been in touch with a few widows and they all say the first year is the hardest.”

Di has also set up a bereavement group called Love From Luke.

She didn’t want her children to have counselling as she believes they would find it scary.

“It’s play-based,” she said. “I do tea for the adults and dinner for the kids. They play and have fun, and if they want to talk about how they feel, they can.”

Love From Luke meets at Lord Blyton Primary School once a week. Search for 'Love from Luke' on Facebook for more information.