Warning to Parents After Missed Sepsis Symptoms Leads to Misdiagnosis

A mother of two from Benburb, County Tyrone, is warning parents to ‘trust their instincts’ after her 10-month-old son’s life-threatening sepsis was misdiagnosed as tonsillitis.

Acacia Bell claims that numerous medical staff failed to identify her son’s symptoms as sepsis on multiple occasions. While medical professionals insisted that her son, Shane Og Kerr, had tonsillitis, Acacia was convinced that it was something more serious but that she was made to feel ‘like she was stupid.’ Through persistence and determination, Acacia continued to seek help for her son, but only when Shane had spent 5 days in hospital was he diagnosed with sepsis. She says parents should remember that ‘you know your child better than anyone.’

Sepsis is more commonly referred to as blood poisoning and is the immune system’s overreaction to an injury or infection. If not treated, sepsis can be fatal due to multiple organ failure.

Acacia Bell first noticed that something was wrong when Shane Og was running a high temperature which Calpol and Nurofen were not bringing it down. The high temperature continued into the following day so his father, Shane Kerr, took him to an Out of Hours surgery but was told to keep giving the Calpol and Nurofen. Acacia and Shane knew that ‘something wasn’t right’ so after another day and night of the same high temperature they took their son to another Out of Hours surgery in Armagh. There they were told his vitals were nothing to worry about, but they provided Acacia and Shane with a letter which said possible viral infection in case they wanted to take him to A&E for a urine test.

Shane Og’s condition appeared to be improving so they took him home, but again faced a distressing and restless night during which Shane Og began vomiting. The following morning Acacia found it difficult to wake him; he was shivering with a temperature of 39 and appeared to be ‘lifeless and pale’ with mottled skin. Acacia managed to get an emergency appointment with a doctor that afternoon, and by that time his were blue.

Acacia recalls: ‘The doctor took one look at him and she said he was about to fit there’s something not right he needs an ambulance, she put an oxygen mask on him and monitored him until the ambulance arrived.’

Shane Og was taken to hospital by emergency ambulance but once they had arrived Acacia was again dissatisfied with the care he received. Though the staff declared his vitals to be fine and that as his throat was slightly red, it was possible tonsillitis. They prescribed antibiotics and to continue with Calpol and Nurofen every 3 hours. Although Acacia told them that she had been doing this for 3 days and it had not brought his temperature down, the medical professionals said the antibiotics would help.

Acacia said: ‘I was made to feel like I was wasting their time and like I was stupid, but I knew there was something more wrong.’

That night her son seemed to rest well, but his condition had not improved in the morning so they again called an ambulance. The paramedics checked him over but believed that his vitals were fine, and the antibiotics needed more time to take effect. Acacia and Shane were not happy with this diagnosis so took the decision to take Shane Og to Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children. Shane Og spent 5 days under observation and investigation before being diagnosed with Sepsis.

A solicitor (acting on behalf of the family) said: ‘Unfortunately this is only one of very many possible medical negligence cases which we are currently dealing with. In our view this is symptomatic of system that is failing and part of a wider story of a health service now in crisis.’

 

If you have been affected by this story or would like to discuss a medical negligence issue that has affected you or your family, then it is in your best interest to get in contact with us at The Medical Negligence Experts where we can discuss your issue and help you make a claim.