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Isabel's Story


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During the summer of 1999, three-year-old Isabel Maude was diagnosed with chicken pox, a common childhood illness. Days after the initial diagnosis Isabel's illness took a strange turn that would lead to days of uncertainty, panic, frustration and near-death.

 
Chicken pox is an expected and even anticipated illness for children. When Isabel developed the typical signs and symptoms of chicken pox, her parents, Jason and Charlotte Maude, were told to expect itching and general discomfort - relatively minor side effects that would subside after a short duration. A few days into the illness Isabel developed a high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe pain and discoloration of the chicken pox rash. Follow-up visits to the family physician and emergency room (ER) reassured Jason and Charlotte that Isabel's suffering was normal and nothing to worry about. Like most parents, Jason and Charlotte trusted the family and ER physicians' opinions and went home breathing a sigh of relief and awaiting improvement. But, things didn't improve; Isabel's condition worsened.
 

Concerned that Isabel's condition was critical her parents took her back to the ER. Minutes after arriving, Isabel's blood pressure dropped dramatically and she required emergency resuscitation. Suddenly, it seemed clear that what Isabel had been suffering from was not just chicken pox but a secondary life threatening infection. Isabel was moved under police escort to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London, where Dr. Joseph Britto, a Pediatric Intensive Care Attending, took over her care.

 

Isabel was diagnosed to be suffering from well described complications of chicken pox-Toxic Shock Syndrome and Necrotising Fasciitis, a flesh eating bacteria. Isabel spent two months in the hospital, including a month in the PICU after experiencing multiple organ failure and cardiac arrest. Throughout the entire ordeal Isabel's parent's dealt with the notion that their daughter may not survive and, if she did, would likely have suffered brain and other organ damage.

 

To treat the Necrotising Fasciitis Isabel underwent an emergency operation to remove the infected skin, leaving extensive scars around her stomach and requiring multiple reconstructive operations. Today, these scars are the only physical reminder of her brush with death. Isabel made a full recovery and is bright and active elementary school student.

 

While the physical scars are minimal, the emotional scars still run deep. For parents, there is no situation as difficult as watching your child suffer. For Jason Maude, Isabel's situation was nothing less than life changing, yet he found a way to turn the experience into something hopeful and positive. Isabel's intense suffering may have been avoided if her doctors at the local hospital had taken all of her symptoms and clinical signs into account and thought of all possible diagnoses, rather than just assuming her symptoms were related to the chicken pox. Isabel was misdiagnosed and needlessly suffered as a result. Rather than suing the hospital for the error, Jason teamed up with Dr. Joseph Britto who conceived the structure of the Isabel clinical diagnosis decision support system. Isabel Healthcare was created, in honor of Isabel Maude and all patients whose lives have been impacted by missed or delayed diagnosis, to help clinicians around the world reduce diagnostic errors.

 

Today, the Isabel diagnosis support system is being used by doctors, nurses, residents and students to reduce diagnostic and decision errors, and improve patient safety and quality of care.