A 23-year-old woman has died of meningitis less than 24 hours after doctors at an Ottawa hospital sent her home with a prescription for penicillin and an uncertain diagnosis.
Samantha “Lily” Mueller died suddenly on June 27, a day after seeking medical attention at Queensway Carleton Hospital for a stiff neck, sore throat and headache.
Roxsanna Mueller, Lily’s mother, said her daughter began complaining of feeling “really horrible” on June 25.
After taking Advil and going to bed, Mueller says her daughter came into her room at 4 a.m., unable to move her neck, and with a temperature of 105.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lily was immediately taken to Queensway Carleton Hospital’s emergency department, but returned home two hours later with a prescription for penicillin instead of answers.
Mueller says Lily told her that doctors were uncertain of the cause of her illness, but suggested it might be strep throat or mononucleosis.
Over the next few hours, Lily’s condition began to worsen. Mueller tried giving her daughter the penicillin, but the 23-year-old began vomiting and couldn’t keep the prescription down while her temperature hovered between 102 and 103 degrees.
The family rushed Lily back to Queensway Carelton where she was admitted. Mueller says her daughter began to complain of pain whenever she tried to breathe, and her appearance had changed drastically; her skin was white with her lips turning blue.
Lily was intubated to help with breathing and given intravenous antibiotics and fluid. However, doctors still could not give the family answers.
The family was told by doctors that Lily had “a very strong virus…is it Strep? is it Mono? We don’t know.”
Mueller says she asked specifically about meningitis, but was told that it did’t comply with Lily’s symptoms.
Instead, doctors put Lily on a broad spectrum of antibiotics, but informed the family that Lily had become septic.
Shortly after 3 a.m, Lily died surrounded by her family.
“It was a nightmare,” Mueller told The National Post. “I couldn’t believe I was talking to her the day before and she was lying there dead.”
The distraught family began demanding answers as to how the young and healthy employee of a fitness club could suddenly have died.
“I was screaming at them ‘You sent her home. Why did you send her home?’ They just had no answers as to why they sent her home.”
After her death, it was confirmed that Lily had been infected with meningococcal disease, a dangerous bacterial infection most common among infants, teenagers and young adults.
“I want to know why they let her go,” Mueller said. “Why did they let her walk out the door with penicillin when they didn’t know what it was?”
Meningicoccal bacteria can be transmitted through respiratory and throat secretions like saliva through kissing or sharing drinks, or through living in close contact to someone infected.
Lily’s family has been vaccinated against meningitis and given prophylactic antibiotics to ensure they hadn’t become infected.
In Canada, menningicoccal disease vaccines are commonly given to infants anywhere from 2 months to 12 months of age. A publicly funded program to administer menningicoccal vaccines to Ontario grade 7 students was launched in 2005 and has since been expanded to include vaccinations against different strains of the disease.
According to Mueller, Lily had not been vaccinated, as she was already out of Grade 7 when the program began.
While officials are still searching for the source the infection, Ottawa Public Health and the regional coroner are conducting an investigation into Lily’s death and have asked for names of anyone who may have been in contact with Lily the week before she died.
Dr. Andrew Falconer, Queensway Carleton’s chief of staff have released a statement regarding Lily’s tragic and sudden passing writing, “We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and have reached out to them in hopes of discussing the details when they are ready. We realize this must be a very difficult time.”
Although Mueller does want to speak to medical officials to hear what they have to say about Lily’s treatment and death, she admits she’s not ready to discuss it just yet.
A celebration of Lily’s life has already taken place.
A GoFundMe account has been set up by Mueller’s co-workers to help support the family at https://www.gofundme.com/lilymueller.