A boy in New Zealand was left disabled with meningitis after doctors misdiagnosed him.
William Burton, 2, was misdiagnosed twice with different illnesses before finally being diagnosed with E. coli meningitis five days later. By the time he was diagnosed correctly, his condition had progressed too far. Two, the toddler’s father Derek is facing more hardship after doctors informed him that his son would not be allowed back on life support if needed.
“It's terrifying,” Burton said. “The doctors have made it clear to us that if William needs life support again, he won't get it. Their expectations for our boy have been low but we need every support we could get. It has been quite stressful and we're constantly worrying.”
The trouble began when Burton and his wife, Wendy, noticed that William, then 3 months old, had come down with a fever and developed a rash. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors examined him and sent the family home. They were instructed to return if the condition worsened.
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“When she examined Will, the paediatrician did mention meningitis as she thought aloud to herself but dismissed it as a consideration,” Burton said. “As soon as the doctors mentioned meningitis, we knew our son was in big trouble. But we were sent home with instructions to bring him in the next day if he still had his fever or if it worsened overnight.”
The following day, the toddler began vomiting and was taken back to the doctor. At this point, his condition included a fever, rash, vomiting, high-pitched crying and a stiff neck. He was diagnosed with gastrointestinal.
“I wasn't happy at all with the diagnosis,” Burton said.
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“It didn't seem right so I questioned her because he wasn't getting diarrhoea but she reassured us that it was a gastro bug and she felt it was the correct diagnosis. I asked about a blood test and she dismissed this as being unnecessary because it would be uninformative but a blood test would have picked up meningitis, especially bacterial meningitis.”
Days later, Wendy Burton returned to the hospital with her son and he was finally diagnosed with meningitis.
“If they had diagnosed meningitis or not have misdiagnosed him then Will’s outcome would have been far, far different to the terrible prognosis he now has,” Burton said.
The toddler was left physically disabled from the meningitis, and also suffered brain damage as a result. Burton said, however, that his son’s condition has had no impact on people’s adoration of him.
“Our son is just beautiful and his condition has improved,” he said. “His brain damage isn't reversible, but he will continue to make improvements and we and a lot of other people are working hard to help him make those improvements. He has been a strong fighter and still loves to be cuddled, hugged and enjoys our company. William has been responding well to physical contact, music and being talked to.”
“We were told that William would never be able to eat his food manually - chew and swallow food or drink from a spoon or a bottle but he can eat and drink normally now,” he added.
“We believe he has more vision and hearing than what doctors have claimed. He has improved overtime but we're taking small steps at a time - two steps forward and one step back. Will has family and friends who love him wholeheartedly, and we’re all in it for the long haul.”