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A baby sick with meningitis was sent home from Abbotsford hospital — only to suffer a stroke

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A two-and-a-half-month boy who was sick with bacterial meningitis was sent home from Abbotsford Regional Hospital, only to suffer a near-fatal stroke days later.

While the infant survived, he now has a blood clot sitting at the base of his skull as he lies in BC Children’s Hospital — and his parents want to know why doctors didn’t do more to protect their son.

Liz Georgelin brought her son Lucas to Abbotsford Regional Hospital on Jan. 27, after the clinic in Mission told her to take the baby to an emergency room. Lucas had a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The doctor came in and saw that [Lucas] was toxic and said, ‘You need to take your baby to a hospital now,'” she said.

READ MORE: Boy with stroke-like symptoms at school told to go home, Abbotsford mom says

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The physician told her to go to Abbotsford rather than Surrey Memorial Hospital because it was closer, and promised to call ahead to alert Abbotsford hospital staff to the urgent situation.

The first-time mother from Maple Ridge says once she got to the busy hospital in Abbotsford, she waited over seven hours to see a doctor. Once that doctor finally arrived, she apologized for the wait and explained there were lots of pediatric patients that night.

“She kind of looks at him, she says, ‘OK, he’s got a temperature, he’s got a cold,'” Georgelin said. “[She said] ‘I want you to watch it, five days, come back if it’s not better or if it worsens.'”
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Georgelin and Lucas’ father, Quinton Lecasse, say they took the doctor’s advice and brought their son home, but the ensuing days were “torture” with Lucas screaming and crying, unable to hold his soother in his mouth.

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Four days after being sent home, with no change in Lucas’ condition, Georgelin took her son to the pediatrics unit at Surrey Memorial.

“I lifted him out of the carrier, and the triage nurse’s eyes were just so wide,” she said. “Didn’t say anything, rushed us into the emergency ward and started doing tests.

“They said, ‘You should have brought him in sooner.’ I said, ‘I did.'”

According to Georgelin, Surrey hospital staff were shocked that staff in Abbotsford didn’t run further tests after seeing Lucas had a fever, a practice recommended for babies under three months on Fraser Health’s own website.

READ MORE: ‘My son died needlessly’: Grieving Okanagan father of meningitis victim demands answers

A day after arriving at Surrey Memorial, the hospital’s head pediatric doctor came in on his day off and said Lucas needed to go to BC Children’s Hospital immediately, and arranged for the baby’s transport that night.

Georgelin says the scariest moment came during that visit to Surrey, when Lucas began suffering a seizure in his father’s arms.

“When doctors start rushing and speaking really fast, you know something’s wrong,” she said.

“His heart was beating so fast, and he was lying on the table staring at the sky, and then he just stops. He just stops breathing. So I just start singing into his ear, hoping that he’d hear me or something and he takes a breath.”

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Georgelin says Lucas’ prognosis has improved, now that he has been put on antibiotics that the parents say should have been administered immediately before the test results came back.

“For all we know, those couple of days [between hospitals] could have costed him everything,” Lecasse said.

Doctors have warned the baby may have suffered permanent symptoms from the ordeal, and remains on blood thinners to prevent further clotting.

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Georgelin wants health officials to explain why her son was sent home so early.

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“We want them to tell us that he’s going to be good, and reaffirm, but reaffirm with definitive knowledge,” she said. “Not just a guess.”

In a statement, Fraser Health stood by what happened, explaining a decision was made “on how to treat this child in the moment.”

“Discharge instructions were also advised that if symptoms continued or worsened to come back to the emergency department,” the authority said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix could not speak to the specific case, citing privacy laws, but admitted overcrowding and long wait times at Abbotsford Regional Hospital is an issue that is continually being addressed.

READ MORE: New allegations of improper mental health care at Abbotsford hospital

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“I think we can always do better,” he said, but added the NDP have increased beds at Abbotsford Regional Hospital while the previous Liberal government cut beds there.

The previous Liberal government spent $15 million in 2017 for expanding services at the hospital.

The NDP government has also committed $16 million to expand the hospital’s emergency department, with construction set to wrap up in 2021.

In the meantime, Georgelin and Lecasse are splitting their time between BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver and their home in Maple Ridge as Lucas’ care continues.

The family has started a GoFundMe page to help cover those expenses.

“We just don’t want this to happen to anyone else’s kid,” Lecasse said.