IT’S the diagnosis no mother wants to hear - that her child has been struck down with life-threatening meningitis.
But for Penny Shapter it was a diagnosis that came almost too late.
Her son, 15-year-old Josh Mastronardi, was sent home from a general practitioner and Orange hospital with a misdiagnosis.
“I just knew there was something terribly wrong with Josh - it was a mother’s instinct,” she said.
It was last December when her son began feeling unwell and suffering headaches.
Although he didn’t exhibit symptoms of a stiff neck, often attributed to meningitis, Ms Shapter said she was convinced her son needed specialist medical help.
“What a chilling reminder the inquest into the death of baby Elijah Slavkovic has been this week for our family, but our Josh has survived,” she said.
Ms Shapter said it was a harrowing experience between the time her son first fell ill and was diagnosed and sent to Sydney for specialist treatment.
“We were sent home from Orange hospital after the doctor, who hadn’t ordered any type of tests, said he had the flu, despite me arguing he was very ill,” Ms Shapter said.
Hours later Ms Shapter took Josh back to hospital where he was diagnosed with meningitis and sent to Sydney.
He spent three months in Westmead Children’s Hospital, where he was also diagnosed with septicaemia.
Ms Shapter said she regrets she didn’t ask for a second opinion the first time she took her son to hospital.
“To any parent out there I just want to say you know your child better than anyone else and stand your ground and ask for a second opinion,” she said.
Director of clinical services at Orange Health Service Dr Louise Messara said while she was not familiar with the circumstances surrounding Josh Mastronardi’s case, parents or any family members are encouraged to ask for a second opinion if they are not satisfied with a diagnosis.
“In fact we would welcome that and parents are well within their rights to ask for a second opinion,” Dr Messara said.
“We can make arrangements within our own health service,” she said.
Director of nursing Sue Patterson said she agrees a parent has honed instincts about their child.
“They have a gut feeling and they know their child best, which is why we think it is an important part of the consultation process,” Ms Patterson said.
Ms Patterson said an initiative was implemented at Orange hospital last November called the REACH program.
“We have placed the signage prominently beside beds and it stands for recognise, engage, act, call and help, with an internal number where family members can call and get advice ,” she said.