A mother of two from Benburb, County Tyrone, warns parents to ‘trust their instincts’. This after her 10-month-old son’s life-threatening sepsis earns misdiagnosis of tonsillitis.

Acacia Bell claims that numerous medical staff failed to identify her son’s symptoms as sepsis on multiple occasions. Some medical professionals insisted that her son, Shane Og Kerr, had tonsillitis. Acacia, in contrast, thinks it was more serious, but feels as if staff talks to her ‘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.’

Blood poisoning

Sepsis is the same as blood poisoning. It’s the immune system’s overreaction to an injury or infection. Without treatment, sepsis can be fatal due to multiple organ failure.

Regarding the missed sepsis symptoms

Acacia Bell first saw something was wrong when Shane Og was running a high temperature. Moreover, Calpol and Nurofen didn’t bring the temperature down. The high temperature went on into the following day. So his father, Shane Kerr, made the choice to take him to an Out of Hours surgery. However, doctor instructions were to keep giving the Calpol and Nurofen.

Acacia and Shane knew that ‘something wasn’t right’. After another day and night of high temperatures, 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, he faced a distressing and restless night during which Shane Og began vomiting. The following morning brings struggles to wake him. He was shivering with a temperature of 39, appearing 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.

Dissatisfaction with care

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. Acacia insists she told them that she’d been doing this for 3 days with no success in bringing his temperature down. Nevertheless, 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. A check over from paramedics came next. They say that his vitals are fine, and the antibiotics need more time to take effect.

Missed sepsis symptoms lead to a misdiagnosis

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 a final diagnosis of Sepsis.

A solicitor (acting on behalf of the family) says:

‘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 a 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.