Up until six months ago Alexis Harrison was a perfectly healthy, normal teenager.
But the 17-year-old childcare educator from the Gold Coast had a fall at work in December last year and her health began an alarming downward slide.
Ever since the accident, Alexis has been having uncontrollable seizures and suffering other terrifying symptoms, including her eyes, nose and mouth suddenly pooling with blood.
Despite the situation continuing for months, Alexis’s parents say they are no closer to understanding what is happening to their daughter and are desperate for answers.
Doctors at the local public hospital were at a loss to explain Alexis’s mystery illness and she had presented to the hospital without being admitted and also been discharged twice despite being extremely ill, her mother Amber Harrison told nine.com.au.
Alexis was at work when she slipped over in the bathroom and hit the left side of her head on a basin, Mrs Harrison said.
After being examined by doctors at a local medical centre, Alexis was sent home.
But, after arriving at work early the next morning, she started bleeding from her left eye.
A manager at the child care centre instructed Alexis to drive back to the local medical centre, Mrs Harrison said.
“When she got there the nurse found her in the bathroom having a seizure and her eye bleeding,” she said.
The medical centre called an ambulance and Alexis was rushed to hospital.
Mrs Harrison said at the hospital, which the family have decided not to name for legal reasons, Alexis was given a CT scan on her head.
“The doctor came back and said it’s all clear. They sent us away, two to three hours later.”
“We had to carry her out she was that dizzy and incoherent. I was saying this is ridiculous that you are letting us leave, and they said, no, no the CT scan is fine.”
The next day Alexis had another seizure and began bleeding from the eye again.
Her family took her back to hospital, where doctors again reassured them the CT scan showed Alexis did not have a brain injury.
Alexis has presented several more times to hospital since then.
Concerned that something vital was being missed, the family called on Ryan’s Rule in order to get an MRI done on Alexis’s brain. Ryan’s Rule is an escalation process for patients and families introduced in Queensland hospitals after the death of Ryan Saunders, who died in 2007 from an undiagnosed Streptococcal infection, which led to Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Like the CT scan, the MRI also appeared to show there was no brain injury. Doctors then suggested Alexis’s seizures were psychological, a conclusion Mrs Harrison said did not make sense.
“I keep saying how can you psychologically make your eyes bleed,” she said.
“We went to see an ophthalmologist in the hospital and the ophthalmologist said Alexis’s eyes look clear, he couldn’t see where the bleeding was coming from.
“I asked him if your eyes can bleed from a psychological issue and he said no, only from a head trauma.”
Mrs Harrison said it wasn’t until last week, when Alexis was admitted to hospital again, that she made a disturbing discovery – Alexis’s CT scan had been mixed up with another patient’s in an administrative bungle.
“They handed me her scan, this is the one they have been going off for six months, and I had the doctor underlining things, saying, ‘See it’s normal, it’s OK’.
Then Mrs Harrison noticed the words “70-year-old male” typed on the CT scan report.
“I said this is for a 70-year-old man. They had been working off someone else’s CT scan for six months,” Mrs Harrison said.
Another CT scan was ordered, which showed a mass in Alexis’s sinus and nasal cavity.
“I thought at last we have found something,” Mrs Harrison said.
However, Mrs Harrison said doctors were still not convinced that this was the cause of Alexis’s seizures and bleeding.
“They said it could be mucus and the scans could change from one day to the next,” she said.
Her daughter was again discharged despite their requests to see an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist and her mouth was still pooling with blood on the evening before her discharge, Mrs Harrison said.
The mother said she had been forced to go to Alexis’s GP to get a referral to see an ENT specialist and neurologist.
Desperate for answers, Mrs Harrison said they had tried to have Alexis seen by several private hospitals, including one on the Gold Coast, who said they could not take on her case after speaking to the doctor who had been treating her in the public system.
“I don’t know what the doctor said but they have just stonewalled us everywhere,” Mrs Harrison said.
“Regardless of the fact that they know she is bleeding still, they have just said there is nothing that we can do about it because they haven’t seen it before. It’s outrageously poor,” Mrs Harrison said.
In the meantime, Alexis’s symptoms were getting more and more severe, with her seizures often lasting for more than 20 minutes and coming on back-to-back for up to 3 hours, Mrs Harrison said.
The bleeding had also increased, she said.
“When this all started it was her left eye that was bleeding, which is the side she had the head trauma. Now it’s both eyes, nose and the mouth, so it’s getting worse.”
Mrs Harrison said it was devastating to see her daughter’s promising future derailed by her mystery illness.
“Basically Alexis can’t work and she can’t drive. She was doing her diploma in Early Childhood but she can’t even focus on her studies now.”