What’s Wrong with This Picture

Three recent stories highlight very disturbing cases of missed diagnosis in the case of brain tumors, all of which ended in death. All three examples are tragic.

Young mother dies of brain tumour just hours after giving birth.”  As if this were not tragic enough, the doctors actually diagnosed her condition as an “ear infection.”  Rosie Kremer, 24, had complained of headaches, loss of appetite, dizziness, and sickness early on in her pregnancy and the doctors diagnosed labyrithitis.  Guess what  labyrithitis is: an EAR INFETCION.  Even though things got worse and worse throughout the pregnancy (dramatic weight loss, agonizing pain), the doctors thought she was just having a “bad pregnancy.”  Rosie spent her last five weeks in bed, unable to sit up or use her hands.  Six hours after giving birth via caesarean, Rosie was pronounced brain dead.  In a CT scan taken months too late (it was taken post-mortem), a large brain tumor was found on her brain stem.

Hospital staff treated man with a brain tumour like ‘just another drunk’ in the hours before his death.”  Just imagine being treated like a drunk in the hours before your death; certainly not a dignified way to die.  “‘They just left Terry in a cubicle to die.”   The more stunning fact is that Terry Day had been diagnosed with a brain tumor a year ealier.  He died at age 35, 3 weeks short of getting married.

Girl, 14, diagnosed with dehydration after suffering severe headaches and poor vision died months later from brain tumour.”  Olivia Wicks went to the hospital with severe headaches, sickness and poor vision, but a triage nurse downgraded her symptoms, which left her waiting six hours see a doctor.  The doctor wrongly decide that she was dehydrated and sent her home.  Six weeks later, Olivia was ill again and went to another hospital,where she finally had a CT scan, which revealed an inoperable brain tumor.  She only survived 10 months after the correct diagnosis.

So what are we left with after these three tragic cases?  Illustrations of the critical need for increased brain tumor awareness and questions, lots of questions.

  • Brain tumor symptoms often present in ways that are similar to other maladies.  However, with brain tumors at top of mind, even the lay person might suspect something far more serious than that which was diagnosed.
  • Raised awareness and education for medical staff seems to be the first step to a solution.  We go to doctors to figure out what is wrong with us relying on their expertise.  Suppose you took your car in to be serviced because it was pulling to the left, and all the garage did was realign the car without noticing that the left front tire was flat, causing the car to pull left.  Wouldn’t you lose all faith in that mechanic and the garage?
  • Have any protocols been established in hospitals designed to seriously consider and investigate the possibility of brain tumor?  Shouldn’t that be at least the minimum standard?  Hospitals typically don’t diagnose heart attacks as indigestion, why not the same with brain tumors?  Given how deadly brain tumors are, their relative scarcity is no excuse.

We could probably go on for quite a while making comments and making suggestions, but I do have a rhetorical question to be pondered that may be viewed as controversial or politically driven.  The true reason behind this question is curiosity.  While I am sure that we can find similar stories of misdiagnosis all across the globe, all three of these occurred in the UK.  So my question is this:  Could these tragedies have stemmed from the social medical system in the UK?



6 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with This Picture

  1. My wife and I live in Boston MA, and she received a correct diagnosis of brain cancer (glioblastoma) within hours of us first noticing symptoms of serious illness. Our medical team at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital simply couldn’t have done a better job of giving us a timely and accurate diagnosis. She received ten hours of brain surgery within 48 hours of the diagnosis and I’m quite sure the prompt treatment extended her life and improved the quality of her life.

    Fourteen months have passed, though, and despite everyone’s best effort my Pam is now ‘playing out the string’. I’m grateful for the happy times we’ve had over the past year or so, but things are genuinely hopeless now — and there’s nothing any doctor could have done about that.

    Brain Tumor awareness also means an awareness of medical limitations.


    • Paul:
      I just went to the blog and learned of your wife’s final battle – I’m sorry that she passed away. Your block is a very powerful and honest description of the end and I want to thank you for being brave enough to write those posts.

      Sometime in the next few weeks, I’d like to have permission to direct the brain tumor community to your blog. Entirely at you convenience, please let me know if that would be alright.

      • @tumorwarrior

        By all means! Why wait? I’d be happy if you directed your visitors to Pam’s blog.

        This isn’t just a proud husband saying it, I’ve heard from an amazing number of people who’ve told me they’ve drawn solace and inspiration from her words. I hope you got a chance to read more than one or two posts.

        Good can come out of tragedy. The more people who read her blog the more we can believe her death (and life!) had meaning.


  2. Pingback: What’s Wrong with This Picture | Brain Tu...

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