We all depend on doctors when our health declines past a point we are comfortable and expect them to diagnose us and make the necessary steps to make us feel better. However, it doesn’t always work out that way and something as simple as an ear infection can become much worse and lead to death. That’s exactly what happened to a 39-year-old who died from meningitis after an ear infection became much worse.
A 39-year-old father died of meningitis which developed from an undiagnosed ear infection, an inquest heard. Andrew Broadhurst went to his GP several times after suffering from a blocked ear, headaches and problems with his sight. Despite repeated examinations over the next three months, medics failed to diagnose a middle ear infection, also known as otitis media.
After collapsing in the bath on March 16 the plasterer from Bartley Green, Birmingham, was rushed to the hospital. Doctors found swelling on Mr. Broadhurst’s brain and he died the next day from meningitis and encephalitis caused by an ear infection. His distraught mother Brenda Partridge told Birmingham Coroner’s Court her son’s condition had been ‘driving him mad’ and he was rocking in pain.
‘In November and December his ear blocked up, he started to get a lot of pain in his ears,’ she said.
‘I bought him olive oil, he said: “I have pain in my ear.”
‘He took some ibruprofen and paracetamol.
‘I phoned 111 and they wanted to speak to Andrew and he said it was driving him mad, he was rocking with the pain, holding his ear.
‘After using olive oil he had black gunk out of his ear, I said he has an infection.’
He visited his GP on December 2 and phoned the NHS 111 helpline nine days later. But violent headaches and visual problems forced him back to the surgery on January 18, 25 and again on March 7. His condition deteriorated rapidly and he was admitted to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital on 16 March. Mrs. Partridge said the day before her son died he was pleading with her while his eyes glazed over as he vomited.
‘I got up and got ready for work.
‘Andrew said he felt rough and I said: “Well why don’t you go back into bed?”
‘I went back into the bedroom and heard Andrew being violently sick in the bathroom.
‘He had positioned himself and let the shower water run down over his head.
‘His arms were over his eyes – he looked at me and he was all glazed, saying, “mum, mum, mum”.
‘I just phoned 999.’
Doctor Kate Corrigan told the inquest she saw Mr. Broadhurst twice in the months leading to his death and gave him ear drops.
‘He was seen on January 18 when I saw him for the first time,’ she said.
‘I was reassured by the examination.
‘Mr. Broadhurst said his ear felt blocked, an examination demonstrated wax. He was given a supply of olive oil ear drops to treat the earwax.
‘Nothing was recorded about pain, just blocked.’
She saw Mr. Broadhurst again on March 8 and referred him to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
‘My working diagnosis was a migraine, so we discussed that and I suggested, and he agreed, with onward referral to neurology,’ she said.
‘When I was writing the referral letter I made the decision to get blood tests done, it is usual procedure to call patients.’
Doctor Sylvia Chudley, who saw Mr. Broadhurst on February 20, told the inquest how shocked she was by his death.
‘I knew there was something not right and also could see his headaches had been assessed by Dr. Corrigan four weeks previously,’ she said.
‘He needed this to be sorted.
‘I am really sorry we couldn’t come up with anything else we could have done differently.
‘We took it extremely seriously and we are very shocked at what happened to him.’
Intensive care consultant Dr. Abigail Ford recalled how rapidly Mr. Broadhurst deteriorated when he was rushed to hospital on March 16.
‘The working diagnosis was meningoencephalitis,’ she said.
‘It is inflammation of the brain itself and meningitis surrounding tissues that cover the brain, it is viral or bacterial.
‘Some of the bumps on the surface of the brain looked smoother which may show swelling of the brain.
‘There was no abscess inside of the brain, no bleeding inside the brain.
‘The lining around the brain showed up the scan consistent with somebody with meningitis.
‘He had been started on broad-spectrum antibiotics.
‘His blood pressure was supported – that was a sign of worsening condition in his brain.
‘A third scan on his brain at 12.40am on March 17, I concluded the smoothing of the bumps were getting worse in keeping with swelling on the brain.
‘I saw him about 8.40am – it was a very quick assessment – things had become a lot worse.
‘His pupils weren’t reacting to light.
‘We confirmed there was nothing else we could do and I phoned Brenda and her husband.
‘When I saw him in the morning, he was already brain dead.
‘There was no benefit in surgery at that point.’
Doctor Declan Costello, a consultant at the hospital, said: ‘Andrew had a middle ear infection that had moved backwards towards the bone behind the ear, the mastoid bone.
‘Because of closeness to the brain it is very easy to spread upwards and cause meningitis.’
Life is so precious and anything can happen to us at any given moment. While doctors are there for us, they don’t always find the cause in time to save us. Unfortunately, they were unable to save this man but can use the experience to help someone else in the future.
H/T Daily Mail