A Nowra couple is devastated after their four-month-old son was twice turned away from Shoalhaven Hospital’s emergency department, before being diagnosed with meningitis at the third visit.
Tegan-Lee Gilbert and Jake Morschel rushed their baby boy Brock to casualty on July 10, with flu-like symptoms including a fever – but said doctors sent them home ‘’because he seemed alert and happy’’.
His condition continued to deteriorate, prompting Ms Gilbert to visit a GP three days later who told her to head straight back to the ED. However, despite being extremely lethargic Brock managed a smile at the doctor, and was again sent home.
After a terrible night, where Brock kept waking up screaming, the couple returned to the hospital the next morning, and he was assessed by a new doctor.
‘’The doctor, a Sydney locum, saw that Brock wasn’t well, he took a nose swab and kept him in for observation,’’ Ms Gilbert said.
‘’That night he had high fevers and vomiting and the next morning the doctor ordered a lumbar puncture as he suspected meningitis.
‘’The test results came in just as Brock had his first seizure – he was diagnosed with influenza A and bacterial meningitis.’’
Brock was airlifted to Sydney children’s hospital at Randwick, where his parents were informed he had swelling and pus on the brain, a blood clot and had had a small stroke.
Ms Gilbert said he had continued to have seizures and would be in hospital for another four weeks.
‘’He’s on anti-seizure medication, antibiotics, painkillers and blood-thinning medication to dissolve the clot,’’ she said. ‘’He’s terrified, and so are we.’’
Ms Gilbert said they wouldn’t know of any long-term effects of the illness for months, if not years. ‘’He could suffer hearing loss or learning or behavioural changes,’’ she said.
She said she was upset with the hospital response.
‘’It’s disappointing they would send a small baby away that many times without a simple test. I don’t even want to think about what might have happened if it wasn’t for the last doctor.’’
Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District executive director clinical operations Margaret Martin said the hospital had spoken with the family directly.
‘’A preliminary review of the clinical notes indicates that at the time of presentation Brock was treated appropriately but his health unfortunately deteriorated. The district will undertake a more detailed review of the care Brock received … to confirm this was the case.’’
The couple has been buoyed by the support they’ve received, with an online fundraiser raising $20,000 in six days – allowing them to stay with Brock.
‘’The bills don’t stop, but this allows us to both stay where we are needed most, and cover medical and other expenses,’’ Ms Gilbert.