Mum urges parents to trust their instincts in wake of toddler’s health scare

Margaret Ellen Bradford's daughter Harper in hospital

When mum-of-four Margaret Bradford presented at the hospital emergency room, she knew there was a serious problem with her 1-year-old daughter, Harper. Sadly, a doctor dismissively sent them home again. Things went very pear-shaped, very quickly. 

Parents, I say this with every ounce of sincerity I have- YOU know your children better than anyone else in this world….

Posted by Margaret Ellen Bradford on Saturday, 17 June 2017

Trust your instincts

Margaret has shared her story on Facebook, as a cautionary tale, warning other parents to trust their gut when it comes to their kids’ health and escalate matters if they feel they’re not being heard. Speaking up and being assertive could save a little life.

“Parents, I say this with every ounce of sincerity I have- YOU know your children better than anyone else in this world. You have been there with them for everything… YOU know your children. Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t,” Margaret prefaced her story about Harper’s frightening experience.

High fever, sleepless nights, sent home

Margaret is kicking herself for putting aside her mother’s intuition, when faced with doubting experts. It’s a situation many of us will find ourselves in, as we attempt to balance our concern for our children with respect for the medical profession. 

“Two nights ago I allowed someone with a medical degree make me feel, for a few solitary moments, like my gut feelings were wrong and I was overreacting to my child’s medical concerns,” Margaret explained.

“When we came in two nights ago, Harper had a 105.4 degree fever. I had spent 3 days and nights doing everything I know how to do to help her fight off whatever illness she had. I hadn’t slept, I had barely eaten, and I hadn’t had a moment to myself because I spent 3 days devoting my everything to her care.”

What followed were numerous attempts to get doctors to escalate Harper’s treatment and dive deeper into what might be making her so sick. Unfortunately, Margaret’s concerns were not taken seriously at all. In fact she found herself heading home with her very unwell baby, with a vague diagnosis and little else.

“The requests I made for more extensive testing- full blood work including CBC, BMP, and spinal went ignored, and we were discharged with the diagnosis ‘virus, probably, she’ll be fine,'” an obviously frustrated Margaret recalls.

From bad to worse

Once they were home, things did not get any better and Margaret became even more concerned. Two days later, Harper had a temperature of “106.3 under her arm” and the family doctor advised them to head straight back to the emergency room, as quickly as possible. Thankfully the reception they received was much more sympathetic and proactive.

Doctors very speedily escalated Harper’s care and diagnosis – and unfortunately the news was incredibly worrying, but also thankfully signalled the beginning of much-needed treatment.

“What the first doctor had quickly diagnosed as “virus, probably” appears to in fact be Kawasaki disease; an illness which causes major inflammation inside the walls of blood vessels and arteries requiring immediate hospitalization, immunoglobulin IV therapies, and aspirin to reduce the likelihood of blood clots within the heart,” Margaret said.

Margaret Ellen Bradford's daughter Harper in hospital

Narrow escape?

Margaret points out that Harper’s family history should have raised alarm bells, rather than the dismissive discharge they initially received. A “history of cardiac disease and congestive heart failure in a sibling” was surely a hint that Harper’s illness may be more than just a virus.

“Every day left untreated raises the risk of serious complications including heart failure and lifelong heart tissue damage, thus significantly raising the chances of early adulthood heart attacks and aneurysms. We won’t know until more testing is done if Harper’s heart is damaged. Had the testing I requested on our first trip been done, the second trip never would have happened. They’d have seen an issue, looked further, and found this days ago,”  Margaret wrote.

“Say it louder”

The worried mum is now pondering hypothetical worst case scenarios Harper’s delayed treatment might have resulted in, and hoping other parents won’t experience the same thing. She urges parents to dig their heels in and speak up if they find themselves in a similar situation.

“I will never allow my fears to be written off again. I know my children, and I know when something is seriously wrong. You do too. You are their voice and their advocate; don’t let anyone, no matter their degree or their opinion, make you feel like you don’t. You know them better and you can tell when something isn’t okay. Say so, and if someone won’t listen, say it louder until they do. Your child depends upon you to do so,” Margaret urges.

The rattled mum says she will never allow herself to be sidelined by experts again.

“I will never let anyone ever again make me feel like my intuition regarding my children is questionable,” Margaret wrote.

It’s a sage reminder that families sometimes do fall through the cracks of our busy healthcare system – and that we’re very often our child’s best advocate.

Sending this family love and strength as they navigate Harper’s health challenge.

Have you had an experience like Margaret’s, where your sick child was turned away by doctors?

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