Twelve year old Rory Staunton did not need to die. He had cut his arm while diving for a basketball at school on a Wednesday. The next day on Thursday he arrived at his pediatrician's office, vomiting, feverish, and with pain in his leg. The pediatrician sent him to the emergency room where he was sent home after being treated for an upset stomach and dehydration. Two days later, he was dead from severe septic shock.
In actuality, Rory's body was fighting a bacterial infection, caused by the bacteria entering his body through the abrasion at school. Blood work was done at the hospital that showed that he was producing vast quantities of cells that combat bacterial infection. This was a warning sign that sepsis was about to begin. Three hours after leaving the emergency room, the laboratory results came back that showed the presence of neutrophils, white blood cells that fight infection. This finding was never communicated to the parents.
Rory got weaker and sicker the next day - now Firday. His parents called his pediatrician who told them to continue giving him fluids and liquids. When he did not improve, the pediatrician told them to return to the emergency room which they did on that Friday. Two days later, Rory was dead from sepsis, caused by the runaway response to a bacterial infection.
Rory's parents are fighting for a new law that would require hospitals to discuss the abnormal results of blood work with the patient or the patient's parents. There are objective signs to screen a patient for developing severe sepsis. These signs include suspected infection, abnormal body temperature, increased heart rate, decreased respirations, alterations of mental status, pulse oxygen reading below 90%, and several other findings.
The message here is clear. Emergency room physicians and pediatricians can miss symptoms and make the wrong diagnosis. In this case, the mistakes led to an unnecessary death.