Hospital emergency departments are reserved for serious medical emergencies. For this reason, presenting to an emergency department is rarely a step taken lightly. Certainly in three-year-old Hamza Said’s case, the instincts of his mother, Sheima Morsi, rightly told her that Hamza was seriously ill.

On Sunday, 4 December 2016, Hamza was at home when he was observed to have developed a high fever. In the early hours of the following morning, Hamza had a fit and his lips and back “turned blue”. An Ambulance was called and Hamza was conveyed to Wollongong Hospital’s emergency department.

Shortly after arriving at Wollongong Hospital, Hamza was assessed by a doctor. Ms Morsi recalls that Hamza was unable to keep small amounts of water down and was pale and lethargic. Despite this, Hamza’s parents were allegedly informed that Hamza had a virus whereafter Hamza was given Panadol and sent home without having been admitted. Ms Morsi recalls that she asked that blood tests be performed, but none were done.

Upon arrival home, Hamza’s temperature is reported to have reached, and exceeded, 40 degrees. At around midday on 5 December 2016, Hamza was taken to his general practitioner who prescribed antibiotics and sent Hamza home.

By 7:00 pm on 5 December 2016, Hamza’s condition had deteriorated further. He had begun to develop a rash and was “floppy and blue”. Hamza was again taken to Wollongong Hospital emergency department. At triage, Hamza’s parents were allegedly informed by a nurse that the virus was causing the rash and that Hamza would have to wait his turn before he could see a doctor.

When Hamza was finally seen by a doctor, a blood test was performed. Hamza was rushed to a resus room at which time his parents recall that they were informed that Hamza had sepsis. He was placed on life support before ultimately being air lifted to Randwick Children’s Hospital where he was admitted to ICU.

The blood tests revealed that Hamza had streptococcal infection which, after entering Hamza’s blood, turned into sepsis. Fortunately, the bacterial infection is now abating though Hamza will spend Christmas in hospital.

Hamza’s case is a clear illustration of the importance of a parent’s instincts. Despite Ms Morsi having taken Hamza to see a doctor at Wollongong Hospital and his general practitioner, she was not satisfied that he only had a virus. She has since said that “while doctors and nurses have a lot of knowledge, sometimes they have to trust a mother’s instinct. I know a lot about my son. I knew he had more than just a virus”.

Despite Hamza’s ordeal, his recovery suggests he is one of the lucky ones. Cases involving patients been sent away from an Emergency Department without proper testing having been conducted occur all too often; testing which would have revealed a life threatening illness. Often, by the time the severity of the illness presents itself, the opportunity for treatment, or effective treatment, has passed. Timing is of the essence.

At Turner Freeman we have lawyers who specialise in medical negligence claims. If you or someone you know has suffered from medical treatment which you believe was not appropriate, including a doctor or emergency department’s failure to properly diagnose or treat a medical condition, we encourage you to call 13 43 63 to speak with one of our medical law experts today.