Mother says ER misdiagnosis leads to son's death

by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:

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HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. —

A local mother is speaking out after she said a Novant Health Medical Center misdiagnosed her son, after refusing to perform tests in the emergency room.

Dot Newbern said her son, Curtis "Trey" Newbern, died in late April after hospital workers misdiagnosed bacterial meningitis as a sinus condition.

Dot said her son called her on the evening of April 24 from work and complained of blurred vision and an intense headache.

"He said 'Mom, I've got a terrible headache. The pain is unbelievable,'" Dot Newbern said.

She drove Trey to Novant Health Medical Center in Huntersville, where his condition worsened in the emergency room, and he began vomiting.

"They told us he had a temperature of 105, and I said 'Oh my God.' I started thinking this is serious, something is going on," she said.

But Trey’s medical records show the ER nurse disagreed, writing, "Patient is mildly ill. I do not suspect he has meningitis. I suspect he has sinusitis."

Dot told Channel 9 her instincts kicked in, and she tried to advocate for her son's health.

"I explained to her, this is my only child and I want to make sure that I don't take him home and something really bad happens. I said 'Can we get blood work, a CT scan, an MRI?" Dot said.

"She said no, 'I'm positive, there's nothing to worry about, we've diagnosed him, he has sinusitis,'" Dot told Eyewitness News.

Hospital records show the nurse wrote orders for Trey’s discharge, with instructions to take Tylenol and drink plenty of fluids, and sent the Newberns home.

Hours later, Dot said Trey woke up, screaming in pain.

"My son's last words were, 'Oh God, mom, mom, mom!'" Dot said.

Dot called 911 and said EMS workers took her son to Carolinas Medical Center Northeast, listing him as critical. CMC hospital records show an ER doctor ordered a battery of tests, including a spinal tap, which revealed Trey had bacterial meningitis.

Dot said Trey was in a coma, and was soon placed on life support. He died April 27.

"I was told by several doctors there that it was 12 hours too late. My son didn't have to die. And I know that," she said.

She confronted a female administrator at Novant, who offered no answers.

"She did ask me, 'Well, what is it that you want? What do you want?' At the time, I wanted my child. I said, 'You know, this didn't have to happen,'" Dot Newbern said.

Dot told Eyewitness News she wishes she fought harder for Trey, and is warning other parents about advocating for their children's health.

"When they go to hospital, and know child is ill, do not leave. Do not let them convince you without running tests. Just a simple test and my son would be here with me today," she said.
Novant Health officials refused an on-camera interview about Trey Newbern, but did send the following statement to Eyewitness News:

"On April 25, 2013, Curtis Newbern received treatment at Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center based on his presenting symptoms. He was then discharged with instructions to return with any change in condition. We are aware of Mr. Newbern's subsequent death, and our deepest sympathy goes out to his family for their loss."

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