Ear infection nearly fatal

ON THE MEND: Aiden Cotton sits with his dad, Ray, and cat after surviving an ear infection scare.
ON THE MEND: Aiden Cotton sits with his dad, Ray, and cat after surviving an ear infection scare.

A Timaru boy could have died from what started as a simple ear infection that got into his brain.

Aiden Cotton, 5, was diagnosed with an ear infection by his GP in December.

Ear drops failed to beat the infection and his condition worsened. The youngster's father, Ray Cotton, and his partner, Jen Maher, took him back to their GP, who referred Aiden to Timaru Hospital's emergency department for intravenous fluids and a scan, Maher said.

However, she said neither request was followed through.

She said they took Aiden back to the hospital three more times, concerned his condition was deteriorating, with symptoms including a high temperature and hallucinations.

On one occasion hospital staff noted he was dehydrated, so suggested he take 10 millilitres of water every 10 minutes, before sending him home.

Aiden was admitted to hospital in early January after the GP sent an email to the emergency department.

"It got really bad - Aiden stopped drinking, he stopped eating. They changed the ear drops, [but] it made no difference," Maher said.

Aiden suffered a seizure in the early hours of January 7, while lying in his hospital bed. He was flown to Christchurch for a scan and emergency surgery, with a 10 per cent chance of survival, Maher said.

"Basically, the infection had eaten through bone at the back of his ear. [It] caused a massive cyst there and caused an infection to the brain. They operated and basically tried to get out as much of the infection as possible."

A drain was also inserted, which released 650ml of "brain spinal fluid" a day, she said. He was also prescribed "a bucketload" of antibiotics.

"About a week later they took the drain out but the pressure built up again, so they had to operate again."

Finally, the antibiotics started to work and Aiden is now on the mend. He had further surgery last week to get a new eardrum, which doctors made using cartilage from outside his ear.

However, he might need a hearing aid for 12 months, Maher said.

He is due to undergo further treatment today to have bandages and packing removed from the wound.

Aiden's family want others to know his story and also want some answers from the South Canterbury District Health Board as to why his condition was not taken more seriously sooner.

Maher plans to lay a complaint with the health board.

Board chief executive Nigel Trainor said that because he had not yet received a complaint or had the opportunity to investigate the matter, he could not comment.

"We encourage Aiden's family to make a complaint via the hospital complaint process."

The Timaru Herald