Mother wants answers after rare stroke takes three-year-old sons life

A grieving Christchurch mother is desperate for justice after claiming her 3-year-old boy died needlessly because a fatal stroke was misdiagnosed.

Ethan Tuo Brown, 3, died in Christchurch Hospital’s intensive care unit on September 7 after his life support was deactivated.

A month on, Michelle Tuo’s anguish was palpable.

“As a mother who has now lost a child, it breaks my heart that my son died in vain because of a doctor’s negligence,” she said.

“I sincerely hope the relevant ministry will intervene to monitor and investigate, and bring justice to Ethan and me.”

The tragic chain of events began on September 4 when Tuo took Ethan to a medical centre after he collapsed at home around 9.40am.

The previously fit and healthy boy regained consciousness after about 10 minutes but he was unable to talk or straighten his body.

Tuo said a doctor diagnosed seizures and told her to take Ethan to Christchurch Hospital.

According to Tuo’s timeline, Ethan was wheeled into the emergency department about 11.40am.

Tuo said the ED doctor agreed with the seizures diagnosis and sought to reassure the mother, saying it could take a “long time” for the body to return to normal.

Although Ethan was drowsy and unable to eat, drink, walk or talk, Tuo said they were sent home about 4pm.

“The doctor came in with two printed sheets of paper … it had detailed instructions for me if Ethan had another seizure at home,” Tuo said.

“The doctor also simply said that if Ethan had another seizure within 24 hours or if the seizures last more than five minutes to call for an ambulance.

“If [the seizure] lasted less than five minutes, at first, make sure Ethan’s head would be safe and place him on his side. After that call the [hospital] and inform them,” Tuo said.

The other document was an appointment – two weeks later – for an electroencephalogram to measure electrical activity in Ethan’s brain.

“I looked at these two pieces of paper and I was still worried about Ethan because he still seemed very sick,” Tuo said.

“I said to the doctor: ‘Are you sure I can take my son home?’ The doctor said: ‘Yes, you can take him home, don’t worry, many patients have seizures, it takes time to return to normal.'”

Tuo said she checked Ethan regularly from the time they returned home and, at 5.45am on September 5, he could not be woken.

“His whole body was very cold with no breath or heartbeat. His lips were dark and eyes closed,” she said.

Ethan was rushed to Christchurch Hospital and about 11am two doctors told her Ethan had suffered a posterior circulation ischemic stroke, which meant the blood supply to his brain had stopped.

He was placed on life support until the machine was turned off at 11am on September 7.

Tuo has spoken out, believing Ethan could have been saved had his illness been accurately diagnosed.

“I think Ethan would have survived. Ethan lost more than 10 hours of precious time that could have saved his life because the doctors misdiagnosed the stroke as seizures,” she said.

Tuo said if doctors had treated Ethan seriously, responsibly and “thought harder” on September 4, he could have celebrated his fourth birthday on September 25.

Canterbury District Health Board chief medical officer Dr Helen Skinner said a review of Ethan’s treatment was underway.

“Our team will be contacting the family to discuss the review, and once confirmed, the findings will be communicated to the family and any appropriate external organisations,” she said.

“On behalf of the DHB, I express my deepest sympathy to the young boy’s whānau for their loss.”

– Star News

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