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‘The worst fear’: B.C. mother of neurodivergent child angry about missed diagnosis – BC

‘The worst fear’: B.C. mother of neurodivergent child angry about missed diagnosis - BC
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A B.C. mother is sharing her story after multiple visits to two hospitals missed a dangerous infection in her neurodiverse child.


Margo Levae’s son, Wyatt, was only seven-and-a-half years old when she noticed her previously good sleeper was starting to wake up in the night.

Wyatt has autism and complex developmental delays and communicates differently to most children.


“He screams when he’s happy. He screams when he’s sad, he screams when he’s in pain,” Levae said.

“All of those screams sound different to me. He has words, but quite often, he does use a lot of non-verbal communication as well.”

However, in December 2022, Wyatt was distressed in a way his mom had never seen before.

But it took two hospitals, four visits and two x-rays over a month to save Wyatt from what turned out to be a severe lung infection.

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“It was probably the worst fear, the worst fear that I’ve ever felt,” Leave said.

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The family originally went to the emergency room at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster on Dec. 18, 2022, but doctors there sent them home and told them to monitor him.

Two days later, Wyatt had shown no signs of improvement.

“It was very urgent,” Leave said. “Crying, bawling, like in distress in a way that I know I had never seen him before when he just had the common cold or, you know, were getting the flu. Even COVID, he never acted like that.

This time, the family went to B.C. Children’s Hospital.

Leave said the family was concerned Wyatt had eaten a foreign object because he was pointing to his right side and screaming, saying, “Ow.”

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She said they thought that the issue was his abdomen and digestive system.

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“We never really thought it’s your right lung,” she said. “And neither did the doctors.”

Doctors ordered an x-ray of Wyatt’s abdomen, looking for something there. However, the bottom of Wyatt’s lungs was also visible and at the time, doctors did not see signs of an infection.

They sent the family home saying Wyatt seemed to be suffering from constipation.

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On Jan. 6, 2023, the family went back to B.C. Children’s Hospital as Wyatt now had a fever.

However, doctors told them that while Wyatt did have a low fever, they didn’t want to connect it to any prior health issue and they said it was the start of a cold and sent them home.

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“I think you question yourself because I have a lot of respect for all the practitioners that are working in our medical system,” Leave said.

“And I know that they have incredible education… But at the same time, I knew that no other cold had started like this.”

When they returned home, Wyatt began to deteriorate. Leave said he didn’t want to move as much, he didn’t want to go to the pool, which he loves, and he started having nosebleeds — something he never had before.

“Finally, what prompted us to bring him (in) was that he coughed up what appeared to be a blood clot,” Leave said.

On Jan. 17, the family went back to B.C. Children’s Hospital.

Wyatt had another x-ray but it wasn’t until they were seen by a respirologist that they found out Wyatt had a severe lung infection.

“Dare I say that I actually felt comfort in that moment,” Leave said. “That I wasn’t crazy?”

The infection had grown to the point where it had bored a hole through Wyatt’s lung, causing an edema that leaked the infection into his body.

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Leave said that even though Wyatt can be experiencing a high degree of pain, he doesn’t express it in the same way another child would.

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So a lack of assessment for a child with his condition is a serious oversight.

Wyatt has a high pain tolerance and may not show the same signs as another child might.

“You look back on it and you think, what more could I have done?” Leave said.

In cases where something was missed, or mistakes were made, patients and their families are often steered to the Province’s Patient Care Quality Officer to conduct a thorough review.

Leave said she did that but the response came back saying there was no mention that a lung infection was missed in the first x-ray.

“It’s almost like if they pass you enough times, eventually you’ll become exhausted and go away,” she added.

In a statement to Global News, B.C. Children’s Hospital said it “can confirm that a review of this matter was conducted last year and it concluded that our clinicians followed appropriate clinical processes to arrive at the correct diagnosis.”

The hospital said the results of the review were communicated to the family.

However, the Province’s Patient Care Quality Officer report stated that it does not appear that a standard pain assessment was met or recorded using a clinically validated pain assessment tool, and for that, they apologized.

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Leave has filed complaints with the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Human Rights Tribunal.

“It’s incredibly hard,” she said.

“I think it’s the injustice of it. That hits me the hardest. It’s knowing that how clearly to me, you know, his disability factored into and contributed and magnified that. That’s the part of it, that for me, I think it’s the hardest because I see the vulnerability.”

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