I will begin by telling you I read a story today that broke my heart. It broke my heart because a family lost their son — 12 years old and full of life. It broke my heart because it seems it could have been prevented. Despite the fact that Rory Staunton’symptoms had some similarities with typical childhood illnesses, his family believes doctors and nurses missed the signs he was NOT suffering from a stomach virus, but was in fact on the verge of severe septic shock.
It broke my heart because I have been there…. certain, in my gut that there is something wrong, but told otherwise by (in my case) well meaning doctors.
According to the article in the New York Times, the Staunton family has turned over Rory’s medical records to the reporter in the hopes of creating an avalanche of change — one that will prevent another family from a preventable loss like this. They have also set up a website for greater awareness. The medical reports indicate that a blood test was done before Rory left the ER with results that showed his system was likely fighting a bacterial infection. But at the time, the Stauntons were never told.
Rory cut his arm diving for a basketball in the school gym on a Wednesday night in March of this year. On Thursday he visited his doctor. He had a fever, was vomitting and was complaining of pain in his leg. He was sent to the ER. Doctors diagnosed him with an upset stomach and dehydration. It is believed that the bacteria was already in his system at this point.
When Rory seemed to be worse the next day, his parents called his pediatrician again. They were originally told to alternate Tylenol and Motrin.
From the NY Times Article by Jim Dwyer
“I told her, I’m not sure you’re getting the picture, Dr. Levitzky,’ ” Mr. Staunton said. “I can’t even get him to sit up. I don’t know how you expect me to get food into him.’ ”
Later, a slight touch would make him scream. “Around his nose was gone blue,” Mr. Staunton said. “Down his body side was gone blue.”
At that point, Dr. Levitzky told them to return to the emergency room. They supported him as he walked to the car. “All he said was, Can I please have a wheelchair when I get there?’ ” Ms. Staunton recalled.
In the intensive care unit, his parents tried to mask their worry, Mr. Staunton chatting lightly. But Ms. Staunton noticed her son’s eyes following her. “He said, Mom, my toes are really, really cold,’ ” she said.
Rory died in the ICU of Strep A Toxic Shock Syndrome three nights after he was first admitted to the ER.
This is most certainly a tragedy… one that can make even the most unflappable parents anxious. It is horrible for the doctors and hospital involved as I can only imagine how they must feel having seen him and sent him home. But, for me, it is a reminder: I am not the first mother, or the first patient who has felt compelled to follow their gut instinct when it comes to recognizing something is wrong despite being told otherwise. And I won’t be the last.
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