A Family's Migraine Horror - A Follow Up

Nancy Harris Bonk Health Guide
  • Last year, I told up you about William Cressey, age 10, who died in early March of 2005 from a completely and totally misdiagnosed case of Migraine. This child suffered a horrible, needless death which could have been avoided if he had received the proper care at Darlington Memorial hospital in England. Yes, proper care from the trained medical staff, doctors and nurses alike.


    William became sick on February 27, 2009. After a few days, he still wasn't feeling better, so his mother called the doctor. With William's fever, sore throat, head and neck pain, the doctor thought it would be best for them to head to the emergency department. Once there, the doctor gave him a cursory look and diagnosed him with a Migraine. Cheryl, William's mom, told the doctor he'd never had a Migraine before and she was pretty sure that wasn't the problem. What she thought might be the issue was an infection of some sort, which William had in the past and recovered nicely with antibiotics. Much to her dismay, the doctor dismissed her, repeating it was a Migraine; he was good to go home. Adamant about her son not having a Migraine, Cheryl pushed until the staff finally admitted William to the hospital.

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    This is when the Cresseys' nightmare truly began. During the night, poor William vomited profusely and was given antiemetic drugs (to prevent vomiting and nausea) as his temperature increased. Blood work showed some abnormalities, but those were seemingly ignored by the doctors. William didn't have the rash that typically accompanies meningitis, so they continued to consider it ruled out. The medical staff would not perform a lumbar puncture to definitively diagnose meningitis, but did perform a chest x-ray which was clear, and ordered a throat culture. The throat culture didn't get done for six hours. For more than 10 hours, as William's health continued decline, no one checked on him, not one note was made in his chart. No vital signs, no urine checks, and no one looked in on him to see how he was. This boy was in extreme pain, and no one checked on him all day? They just left him and his mom to suffer and wait. It was like he wasn't even there. After a long, horrible day, with no relief in sight, he was discharged without being examined, and told to take Calpol, aka acetaminophen.


    Once William was home, he rapidly got worse. Screaming in pain, vomiting, and violently ill, Cheryl took him back to the hospital. He began having "fits" (which is an outdated word used for seizures) and "I asked again if they had considered meningitis," says Cheryl. "They clearly thought I was a neurotic mother who was making a fuss about nothing. But I knew my son and I knew he was seriously ill." Cheryl said. At this point they continued to consider meningitis as having been ruled out, one doctor thinking he had a brain bleed and asked for a brain scan, which was immediately denied. The same doctor now thought William might have meningitis and was just about to give him life-saving antibiotics when a nurse came in the room and said to stop the treatment. A senior doctor, not health insurance, had denied William's last chance at life. Cheryl says her son was holding the doctors arm, begging for help. They actually had to pull William's fingers off the junior doctor's arm. I bet that's an image he won't soon forget. This doctor could have made all the difference in this boy's life - like saving it - and didn't have the guts to disagree with his boss.


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    As William's condition continued to decline, with seizure after seizure and losing his sight, a blood test finally confirmed what his mom already knew; meningitis. Now they gave him antibiotics. Now they decided it was time for a brain scan. But it was all in vain because William had just suffered a huge and irreversible seizure and was now unconscious. When they tried to do the scan, they found William was in a coma and needed to be put on life support. He was then transferred to another hospital. When Cheryl arrived at the hospital she was whisked away and told William was brain dead. Absolutely shocked, Cheryl and the chaplin sat with William while he was taken off life support. This bright and beautiful boy died within minutes. 


    How could this have happened? Apparently, very easily. Humans make errors every day; I know I do. But the completely insufficient monitoring of this child is astonishing. There was no record keeping during his first stay or, as Coroner David Mitford said, "almost total lack of adequate documentation of any observations."  Not being checking while in the hospital for 10 hours? Yes, Cheryl asked why he wasn't checked. The answer was always, "We'll be in shortly." The nurse in charge took home William's charts and threw them away. And worst of all, the hospital denied everything at the first inquest. Dr. Alam, one doctor involved, has admitted making a mistake, but only because the coroner forced it from him. Cheryl got her apology after five long years, and even a settlement, but that's not going to bring her son back, which is what she really wants. The medical staff has still not been reprimanded, and Cheryl's life has been changed forever; and the hole in her heart will never be healed.








    McFarlane, Neil. William Cressey died after being discharged from Darlington Memorial Hospital. The Northern Echo. October  22, 2009. 


    McFarlane, Neil. William Cressey died of meningitis. The Northern Echo. February 15, 2010.


    Whitcroft, Isla. William saw SEVEN doctors before he died, but not one spotted the telltale signs of meningitis - his mother had to battle five years for an apology.  MailOnline. July 23, 2010.






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    © The HealthCentral Network, 2010
    Last updated July 11, 2010
Published On: July 23, 2010