Boy sent home with burst appendix
A Titahi Bay mum is imploring doctors to listen more intently to patients and their families after a misdiagnosis at Kenepuru Hospital’s accident and medical centre almost cost her son his life.
Hemi Fermanis is currently in a stable condition in Wellington Hospital after his appendix burst four weeks ago. He was in Palmerston North at the time, playing at the basketball nationals for Mana College.
His mum Rae said Hemi was not one to cause a fuss so she knew something was wrong when he came back from the tournament saying he had an upset stomach and had been unable to eat for days.
Another of their sons had his appendix burst just eight weeks earlier – and the doctors at Kenepuru had been ‘‘brilliant’’ – so Ms Fermanis said she recognised the symptoms.
‘‘I know my boy, he’s never normally a moaner. But when he says ‘ Mum, this really hurts’, we jump. Jared had this exact thing a few weeks ago so I knew we had to get Hemi to hospital.’’
The doctor they saw at Kenepuru, however, was convinced it was a bug and, despite Ms Fermanis’ protests, sent them home to ‘‘wait it out’’.
Hemi was prescribed codeine and tests scheduled for the coming days.
Ms Fermanis said the doctor was ‘‘arrogant’’ and ‘‘didn’t want to listen to what we had to say’’.
Hemi began throwing up that night, so they returned to Kenepuru again. But, in the car park, the family saw a doctor who recommended they head straight to Wellington Hospital.
There, he was assessed immediately and diagnosed with peritonitis, a complication of a burst appendix, and had surgery hours later. The surgeon later told Rae and Hemi’s father Mike that it was one of the worst cases he had seen. His appendix was ‘‘black’’ and was close to affecting other organs. Two litres of pus was removed from Hemi’s stomach and at one stage during the operation he went into shock.
He has a scar up his navel and remains in hospital.
They anticipate a slow recovery, with the basketball and American football player out of action for some time. His weight has dropped from 93 kilograms to 73kg during the ordeal.
‘‘This is a 17-year-old boy, a silent sufferer, but he was scared to death. He still is now – Hemi is getting the royal treatment in Wellington [Hospital] and the nurses are great, but he doesn’t trust doctors,’’ Ms Fermanis says.
She insists, unless it is for cuts and bruises, the Fer- manis family won’t be making any trips to the A&M centre in the future.
Capital & Coast District Health Board clinical executive director for medicine, cancer and community services Dr Colin Feek said the A&M, which uses community doctors on rotation, was a way for people to see a doctor when they were unable to see their GP. Anyone with a medical emergency should dial 111 and ask for an ambulance.
While Dr Feek said making a diagnosis ‘‘is not a perfect science’’ the hospital apologised for what happened to Mr Fermanis and his family, and wished him well in his recovery.
He said they had a ‘‘robust’’ complaints process and welcomed a complaint on the matter as it may help limit a repeat occurrence.
Ms Fermanis says they are likely to make a complaint, but not until Hemi returns home. ‘‘ This could be have been avoided if the doctor had heard what I was saying and trusted the information he was given.’’
Medical misdiagnosis: Hemi Fermanis has a lasting reminder of one doctor’s mistake, and a trip early next year to the United States to play rugby is not going to happen now.