Child infections can be deadly when doctors ignore warning signs

When doctors misdiagnose a patient’s symptoms, the patient’s condition and symptoms are usually prolonged. In worst case scenarios, a wrongful death can result from a misdiagnosis, as was the case with a 12-year-old boy whose sepsis symptoms went undiagnosed by his family physician and an emergency room staff earlier this year.

The boy cut his arm while playing basketball in his school gym. He later began vomiting and suffered from a high fever and severe leg pain. His skin color was not returning to normal when pressed. The boy’s physician diagnosed him with stomach flu and sent him to an emergency room where he received fluids intravenously and was sent home.

Although the boy’s symptoms were dismissed as the common flu, while the boy was being seen by medical staff, a strain of bacteria that causes strep throat was present in his body, presumably having entered through the cut he had from the earlier basketball incident. In response to the invading bacteria, the boy became susceptible to sepsis.

The boy’s symptoms included mottled skin and a persistently rapid pulse. Additionally, the hospital’s lab test results showed that the boy’s white blood cell and platelet counts were extremely abnormal. Collectively, these symptoms pointed to something far more serious and dangerous than the stomach flu.

Sadly, the boy’s symptoms were ignored and the boy was sent home. Since he did not receive the treatment he needed to stop the infection, his organs began to fail. Three days later, the sixth grader was dead from septic shock.

The boy’s wrongful death is certainly tragic. But since the incident, the boy’s parents and other medical professionals have been sharing his story to warn parents and doctors about the dangers of sepsis and how to notice symptoms of the infection so that it can be treated before the infection causes serious or fatal complications. Other medical facilities have even focused on developing and providing thorough training for detecting and treating sepsis.

Source: New York Times, “Death of a boy prompts new medical efforts nationwide,” Jim Dwyer, Oct. 25, 2012