Persistence pays off

Maria is a six year-old girl who presented to our clinic today with fever, headaches and neck pain. She had been seen by four doctors at four different clinics over the past 24 hours and was diagnosed with lymph node inflammation each time.

Maria’s mother seemed very concerned and was often tearful as she described her child’s medical history. As she covered the recent signs and symptoms, I began to worry about meningitis.

After the mother finished talking and I did a full exam, I said, “I am worried she has an infection around her brain. I think we should do a spinal tap.”

Maria and her mother immediately began sobbing. As they collected themselves, the mother said, “After reading on the internet, that was what I was afraid of. I thought she was sicker than just having a problem with her lymph node.”

Hours later we did a spinal tap and the results were irrefutable: She has meningitis.

Hours later, I was called to the Emergency Department. A 13 year-old boy named Benjamin presented with right knee pain for 2 months that became worse over the past two days. He was seen at two clinics today, had x-rays and was diagnosed with “arthritis”. He was scheduled to see an orthopedic surgeon in June.

His mother felt uncomfortable with the plan and came to our facility. After doing a quick exam we obtained an x-ray to confirm our diagnosis. There is little question to what is causing his pain: He has cancer of his thigh bone.

I called the orthopedic surgeon and he immediately came to see the patient. Within minutes he was preparing to transfer the child to the United States for a definitive diagnosis.

Both of the children may be saved from death for one reason and one reason only: They both had concerned, persistent mothers.


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