Christchurch mother wants answers after stroke takes young son's life

Source: 1News

A grieving Christchurch mother is calling for an emergency doctor to resign after claiming a misdiagnosed stroke led to her three-year-old son's needless death.

Michelle Tuo told 1News her son's symptoms were misdiagnosed as a seizure, and that Christchurch Hospital staff discharged him and told her to go home.

According to Tuo, the previously healthy Ethan collapsed and appeared to lose consciousness at home at about 9.40am on September 4. 

He was out for about 10 minutes, then his eyes opened. He couldn't speak or straighten his body. 

Tuo rushed Ethan to a doctor. Tuo said she was told to take Ethan to Christchurch Hospital because he had suffered a seizure. 

She said Ethan was then wheeled into the ED at about 11.40am. 

Tests continued in the emergency department for several hours. Ethan still couldn’t walk, stand, talk, eat, drink or urinate.

Tuo said hospital staff diagnosed it as a seizure. By about 4pm, Ethan was discharged and they were sent home with instructions about what to do if he had another seizure. 

An electroencephalogram - to measure electrical activity in the brain - was also scheduled for Ethan two weeks later. 

She said she didn’t know what to do but listen to the doctor’s advice. 

“[At that point] I still really, really worry about my son. But, I don't know what I can do as the mum,” she said. 

Overnight, Tuo checked her son regularly. She called 111 after finding Ethan unresponsive at 5.45am the next day.

Ethan had suffered a stroke and could not be saved. His life support was turned off two days later on September 7.

Tuo believed her boy would still be alive if the doctor had done more tests.

She wanted to come forward to warn other families. 

“[If] your son [or] your daughter is unwell ... even [if] the doctor discharge you, just say no, I'm gonna stay,’” she said. 

Ethan would have turned four on September 25.

“This is really hard as the mum, you know," Tuo said.

"This is really hard.” 

Canterbury District Health Board chief medical officer Dr Helen Skinner expressed her deepest sympathies.

However, she refused to elaborate further, saying the DHB didn’t comment on individual cases.

The DHB confirmed a review was underway into Ethan’s treatment. This is standard practice after what they describe as an unexpected death.