A SCARBOROUGH man was left fighting for his life in hospital after being told he had swine flu instead of meningitis.
Dan Rose, of South Cliff, was told by advisors at NHS Direct that he should take paracetamol, drink lots of fluids and stay at home.
But when his mum, Amanda Morton, went round to see him she realised something was more seriously wrong.
Mrs Morton, who works as a medical secretary in Sherburn, says if they had followed the advice they were given her son could have died.
He is now making a steady recovery at Hull Royal Infirmary but may have to stay there for six weeks.
The 48-year-old, of Box Hill, said: “We could have lost him – the consultant said we got there just in time.
“It’s been dreadful and he’s not out of the woods yet, but he’s a fighter and we’re sure he’ll pull through.”
Mr Rose, 24, fell ill on January 8 and went home early from his job at Phones 4U in the town centre.
His girlfriend rang NHS Direct and was told his symptoms indicated that he may have swine flu.
When his mum went round to his flat two days later his condition had got even worse.
Mrs Morton said: “He had a headache, fever, neck pain and kept telling me to close the curtains because the light was hurting his eyes.
“Alarm bells started ringing in my mind. I’ve picked up quite a bit of medical knowledge through my job and also, as a mum, you just know when something’s not right.”
She rang NHS Direct twice and was given the same advice as before. Mrs Morton then rang her own GP to try and arrange a home visit, but was told it was not possible as Dan wasn’t registered at the practice.
Mrs Morton then called the Castle Health Centre in York Place, who advised her to bring her son in due to the severity of his symptoms.
She said: “He lives in a top floor flat and my husband had to carry him down the stairs as he was too weak to walk.”
Her son, a former Hertford Vale and Filey School pupil, was seen immediately and rushed to Scarborough Hospital where he was given antibiotic treatment.
The following day he had an MRI scan which showed an abscess on the frontal lobe of his brain. He was transferred to Hull Royal Infirmary straight away.
Following tests it was found that Mr Rose had suffered a severe sinus infection which had led to pneumococcal meningitis.
His mum said: “He’s very weak and has lost a lot of weight, but he’s feeling more positive now.
“His girlfriend has been to see him every day and his friends have been brilliant. He’s got so much support.”
Mrs Morton added that she wanted to make people aware that the symptoms of swine flu can be very similar to other conditions such as meningitis, septicaemia, encephalitis and malaria.
She said: “If reading this helps somebody else then that’s the main thing.
“I would hate to see that something like this had happened again or worse, that someone had died.”
An NHS Direct spokesperson said: “We are unable to comment on individual calls due to patient confidentiality. We take feedback extremely seriously and follow up on cases where a patient, or their family, has concerns about the way their call was dealt with.
“We have not been contacted by the family in this case, and would urge them to get in touch so that they can contribute to a thorough investigation.”
NHS Direct’s nurse advisors assess callers based on their symptoms. If it is felt that a face-to-face assessment is required the patient will be advised on the most appropriate health care provider and the timescales in which they should seek further help.
Patients are also given advice on what to do if their symptoms get worse.
The Meningitis Research Foundation’s chief executive, Christopher Head, said: “Spotting meningitis symptoms early can save lives. Specifically look out for the ‘red flag’ early warning symptoms: cold hands and feet, severe pain in the limbs and joints, and pale or mottled skin, as well as the ‘classic’ symptoms like a stiff neck and dislike of bright lights.
“Remember these symptoms can appear in any order and some not at all, therefore it is important to trust your instincts.
“We don’t want to worry people unnecessarily, but it is important not to be deterred from seeking medical help if you or your child is very ill.”