Girl, two, dies after swine flu misdiagnosis
Child with possible meningitis was 'failed by system' say parents
Jo Adetunji Saturday 8 August 2009 01.08 BST
The parents of a two-year-old girl thought to have died from meningitis after they were told she was suffering from swine flu said yesterday that she had been "failed by the system".
Georgia Keeling, from Norwich, died after being rushed to hospital on Tuesday. Her parents, Paul Sewell, 21, and Tasha Keeling, 22, said they contacted health services, including NHS Direct, the swine flu helpline and the emergency services, five times after their daughter first developed a temperature on Saturday.
The couple said that by Tuesday she had also developed a rash, bruising and had been sick, but their concerns that she might have meningitis were ignored.
They said that on two occasions they were told Georgia did not need to be admitted to hospital and after one 999 call, a paramedic arrived with Tamiflu and paracetamol. It was only after another 999 call an hour later, when her eyes had glazed over, that she was taken to hospital. Georgia suffered a heart attack and attempts to resuscitate her failed.
Speaking to a local paper, Sewell said: "I don't feel like the paramedics did their job properly. She wasn't given a chance, they had diagnosed her before even looking at her and came out ready to give her Tamiflu. She was failed by the system big time. I just want to know how come they didn't take her into hospital straight away.
"You trust them because they are qualified professionals, you don't really think to question what they say. I'm not a doctor, but you could see she was really ill."
The child's death comes just a few weeks after a warning from The Meningitis Trust against mistaking the symptoms of meningitis for swine flu. Several, including fever, muscle pain and headaches, are common to both conditions and several health charities have expressed concern that doctors and health professionals could miss them.
A recent poll in GP Newspaper revealed that in a survey of 251 GPs, almost 90% believed that diagnosing swine flu over the phone could mean that other diseases, such as meningitis and bronchitis, were missed.
Georgia's family say that although she was eventually seen, they were still told she had swine flu.
Health officials said yesterday that they were launching an investigation into how the child died and would be looking into the possibility that she may have been wrongly diagnosed with swine flu.
NHS Norfolk, which manages GP services in the area, said it was working with other agencies to ensure that there was a "thorough investigation of the circumstances."
The East of England Ambulance Service said they had not received a complaint from Georgia's family but would be conducting a full investigation.
"We extend our sincere condolences to the family at this sad time. The ambulance service is committed to providing the highest standards of patient care and we will be conducting a full investigation into this serious incident to find out exactly what happened. We won't be in a position to comment further until the findings of that investigation are known," a spokeswoman said."
9 August 2009
Dying of meningitis but tot got Tamiflu
A two-year-old girl has died of meningitis after TWICE being wrongly diagnosed with swine flu.
The grieving father of toddler Georgia Keeling said: "If medics didn't jump to conclusions she might still be alive."
Paul Sewell hit out after NHS DIRECT dismissed the family's fears that Georgia had deadly meningitis.
And PARAMEDICS answering the family's 999 call also claimed she had swine flu and should take Tamiflu.
Paul, 21, a salesman, added: "Her death shows how wrongly diagnosing swine flu can have catastrophic effects.
"Everyone was too quick to suggest she had it.
"I don't feel the paramedics did their job properly. They diagnosed her before even looking at her and came out ready to give her Tamiflu."
"She was not given a chance. I want to know why she wasn't taken to hospital straight away. You could see she was really ill."
Georgia fell ill at home in Norwich on Monday with a cough and high temperature. They next day, she was also drowsy and had a rash. The family rang the swine flu helpline and were told the child had only one symptom of the illness.
Her mum, Tasha Keeling, 22, suspected meningitis. She grew even more worried after the rash failed to disappear when she pressed it with a glass.
However, an NHS Direct operator dismissed those fears and told the family to call 999 only if her temperature hit 40°C. Within an hour, the family were so worried they did just that. Two paramedics arrived. Mum-of-three Tasha said: "One said it definitely was not meningitis.
"They just gave us Tamiflu and told us she needed plenty of peace and quiet. A proper ambulance was on its way, but they said it was not needed and they went away."
Soon afterwards, Georgia's eyes glazed over and she stopped breathing. Tasha dialled 999 again but Georgia was declared dead in hospital.
Tests are being done to confirm meningitis. East Anglia Ambulance Service said: "We are committed to providing the highest standards of patient care.
"We will conduct a full investigation. We won't be in a position to comment further until the findings are known."