39-year-old Dad Dies from Meningitis after Doctors Missed a Severe Ear Infection


Know the symptoms of meningitis, and know when to bring a loved one to the hospital.

People often brush off simple headaches and muscle pain by drinking painkillers or getting some rest. But what most people don’t know is that these ‘simple’ symptoms might be warnings of a deadly infection.

39-year-old Andrew Broadhurst was experiencing severe headaches and visual problems in following a ‘blocked ear’ in January. Andrew told his parents that the headaches were getting worse and that he was “going crazy” because of the pain. The dad from Birmingham was reportedly “rocking in pain” with his never-ending muscle pain and headaches.

When brought to the hospital, doctors said it was a simple case of “ear blockage” and gave him olive oil instead. But when his mother dropped olive oil into Andrew’s ears, she claimed that “black gunk” came out of his ear.

Andrew later complained of pain in his ears, severe headache, and even visual problems. But when brought to the hospital, doctors once again diagnosed him with a severe migraine on March 8th. However, his condition deteriorated rapidly and he was admitted to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital on 16 March.

Mrs. Partridge said the day before her son died he was pleading with her while his eyes glazed over as he vomited.

‘I got up and got ready for work. Andrew said he felt rough and I said: “Well why don’t you go back into bed?”

‘I went back into the bedroom and heard Andrew being violently sick in the bathroom. He had positioned himself and let the shower water run down over his head. His arms were over his eyes – he looked at me and he was all glazed, saying, “mum, mum, mum”.

‘I just phoned 999.’

Doctor Kate Corrigan told the inquest she saw Mr Broadhurst twice in the months leading to his death and gave him ear drops.

‘He was seen on January 18 when I saw him for the first time,’ she said.

‘I was reassured by the examination. Mr. Broadhurst said his ear felt blocked, an examination demonstrated wax. He was given a supply of olive oil ear drops to treat the earwax. Nothing was recorded about pain, just blocked.’

Doctor Sylvia Chudley, who saw Mr. Broadhurst on February 20, told the inquest how shocked she was by his death.

‘I knew there was something not right and also could see his headaches had been assessed by Dr. Corrigan four weeks previously,’ she said.

‘He needed this to be sorted. I am really sorry we couldn’t come up with anything else we could have done differently. We took it extremely seriously and we are very shocked at what happened to him.’

Roy Partridge outside Birmingham Coroners Court cries his heart out as his wife Brenda recalled her horror at finding her son vomiting the day before his death.

Intensive care consultant Dr. Abigail Ford recalled how rapidly Mr. Broadhurst deteriorated when he was rushed to hospital on March 16.

‘The working diagnosis was meningoencephalitis,’ she said.

‘It is inflammation of the brain itself and meningitis surrounding tissues that cover the brain, it is viral or bacterial. ‘Some of the bumps on the surface of the brain looked smoother which may show swelling of the brain.

‘There was no abscess inside of the brain, no bleeding inside the brain. The lining around the brain showed up the scan consistent with somebody with meningitis. He had been started on broad-spectrum antibiotics.

‘His blood pressure was supported – that was a sign of worsening condition in his brain. The third scan on his brain at 12.40am on March 17, I concluded the smoothing of the bumps were getting worse in keeping with swelling on the brain.

‘I saw him about 8.40am – it was a very quick assessment – things had become a lot worse. His pupils weren’t reacting to light. We confirmed there was nothing else we could do and I phoned Brenda and her husband.

‘When I saw him in the morning, he was already brain dead. There was no benefit in surgery at that point.’

Doctor Declan Costello, a consultant at the hospital, said: ‘Andrew had a middle ear infection that had moved back towards the bone behind the ear, the mastoid bone. Because of closeness to the brain, it is very easy to spread upwards and cause meningitis.’

SIGNS and SYMPTOMS of Meningitis and Septicaemia in ADULTS and CHILDREN:

*Symptoms can appear in any order. Some may not appear at all.

  • Fever, cold hands and feet
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsy, difficult to wake
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Dislike bright lights
  • Convulsions/seizures

Early symptoms can include:

Fever, headache, vomiting, muscle pain and fever with cold hands and feet.

Someone with meningitis or septicemia can get a lot worse very quickly.

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