Doctors miss son’s cancer three times

Three-year-old Harry Howard's cancer was misdiagnosed as growing pains by three different health officials in Wigan. 

Pictured with mum Helen
Three-year-old Harry Howard's cancer was misdiagnosed as growing pains by three different health officials in Wigan. Pictured with mum Helen

A Wigan mum was left in despair after her toddler’s cancer was misdiagnosed as growing pains an incredible THREE times.

Helen Howard is demanding answers from Wigan health bosses after being told her three-year-old son Harry was not seriously ill on three different occasions, despite voicing her concerns over his high temperature and leg pains.

It was only when Helen sought a final opinion from Alder Hey Children’s Hospital that Harry was found to be “riddled from head to toe” with stage four non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“It was in his skull, his central nervous system, his bones, bone marrow and his fluids,” Helen said.

Brave Harry is now undergoing intensive chemotherapy to combat the aggressive spreading of cancer cells throughout his body and his mum is urging parents to trust their instincts if they think something is wrong with their child.

Frustrated Helen said: “They should have done more. It wasn’t that they missed it, it was the level of care they showed.

“I was absolutely desperate for someone to take notice, but they didn’t.”

A spokesman for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Trust, which operates Wigan Infirmary, said: “we are sorry that Mrs Howard was not satisfied with the care provided for her son, and for any distress caused.”

Helen and Damon Howard’s nightmare began last November when they noticed all was not right with their lovely little boy.

Helen, 30, said: “He wasn’t the three-year-old we knew,” she said.

“He had night sweats, a high temperature and the pain in his knees was stopping him from walking.”

Helen, who lives with 31-year-old husband Damon in Ashton, first took Harry to the walk-in centre at Leigh, where she was told not to worry, and that nothing was seriously wrong. The couple’s worries were also alleviated after finding that infant suspension medicine was easing Harry’s pain.

But just days later, her concerns were again waved away twice at Royal Albert Edward Infirmary - by A&E and then a doctor - after her poorly boy’s condition didn’t improve.

“They dismissed everything,” said Helen.

“They weren’t interested, and it seemed like they were in a rush to get us out.

“I really voiced my concern but I was being driven up the wall. If a child of three comes in and can barely walk, how can you dismiss that? They did absolutely nothing.”

A doctor at the Infirmary asked for an X-ray on Harry’s hip - not his knees - but stopped short of Helen’s requests for blood samples to be taken.

A week later, Harry still couldn’t walk and the pain had now spread to his back.

Helen’s motherly instincts kicked in and she asked for another opinion from doctors at Alder Hey Chidren’s Hospital.

“I just knew something wasn’t right.”

Initially, doctors at Alder Hey also suspected nothing sinister, but agreed to admit Harry as a precaution.

And after a day of intensive examinations including ultra sounds, x-rays, blood tests and an MRI scan revealed the shocking truth to the stunned couple.

Helen said: “I never dreamed it would be anything as bad as cancer.”

To add to their growing anger, staff at Alder Hey said that if they had accepted Wigan Infirmary’s diagnosis as concrete, or even left it a few days more before bringing him in, Harry could have been paralysed.

Doctors in Liverpool performed emergency surgery to remove a large tumour from Harry’s back, which alleviated some of the pressure on his spine.

But the months of intensive chemotherapy have sadly taken their toll on the brave toddler.

“He’s gone through hell and back,” said Helen.

“He has a lot of blood transfusions and is full of pumps. He doesn’t speak for weeks at a time. It’s quite aggressive cancer, so they have to treat it with the highest amount of chemo.”

Helen now wants to know why her son’s advanced stage of cancer was not spotted by any of the health workers she took him to see.

“Three different sources said it was fine. It wasn’t necessarily that he was misdiagnosed, it was that they didn’t diagnose it at all.

“I just want Wigan Infirmary to know the error they’ve made.”

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Trust, which operates Wigan Infirmary, was unable to comment publicly on Harry’s treatment due to patient confidentiality obligations, but confirmed Helen’s concerns were investigated.

A spokesman said: “we are sorry that Mrs Howard was not satisfied with the care provided for her son, and for any distress caused.”

A spokesman for Bridgewater Community Healthcare Trust, which operates the Leigh Walk-In Centre, said it was taking the complaint “extremely seriously.”

“The Patient Services Team investigated this complaint and responded to the family accordingly. We wish to convey our support to the family at this difficult time.”