Family asking questions after son dies following Surrey hospital ER visit

Another family is speaking out about treatment by Fraser Health Authority after their son was sent home from the Surrey Memorial Hospital emergency room and died a day later.

Kris Biggs was strong enough to survive a 2009 construction site accident that left him with second- and third- degree burns to 15 per cent of his body, but according to his family, he wasn’t strong enough to survive Surrey Memorial.

In September 2016, Biggs arrived at the emergency room with severe chest, back and head pain. Doctors told him it was dehydration and muscle soreness and sent him home.

Biggs, 27, died in bed the next day.

“The diagnosis was wildly inaccurate. It wasn’t even close. To have your aortic valve basically exploding, and they said he was just dehydrated,” Biggs’ uncle, Darryl McMillan, told Global News.

Biggs ultimately died of an aortic dissection, a heart condition rare for a man his age.

His family waited two months for Fraser Health to review how Biggs’ real diagnosis was missed. In a letter to his mother, Sharron McMillan, Fraser Health noted that Biggs’ heart rate was normal and he presented with normal vital signs on four tests. It added his main complaint was a headache that had persisted for two days and worsening chest pain.

“He did his best to explain to them what was wrong. And for them to say he didn’t express his symptoms clear enough is ridiculous,” Darryl said.

The report also stated that an x-ray may have caught the aortic dissection, but the treating physician did not believe one was warranted at the time.

Fraser Health would not speak to the specifics of this case with Global News, but said if the family wasn’t satisfied with the review, they could contact the Provincial Review Board for further follow up.

Biggs’ story comes after the death of two people who also died shortly after being sent home from Fraser Health emergency rooms.

Mary Lou Murphy went to Abbotsford Regional Hospital on Jan. 30 – sweating profusely and in considerable pain. After a five-hour wait she was given a shot of morphine and sent home, Fraser Health said. She died the next day.

Just a week later, Balraj Gill took her three-year-old daughter Nimrat to the same hospital with a fever. Gill said she was advised to go home and give her daughter Tylenol. She was rushed back to the hospital the next day after her condition worsened, where she later died.

A doctor’s report claimed that Nimrat succumbed to “a large left-sided pneumonia… septic shock related to this with resulting respiratory failure leading to cardiac arrest.”

In an email to Global News, Biggs’ mother said he could still be alive today if it wasn’t for the misdiagnosis.

“Kristopher’s condition was critical but survivable. If it had been diagnosed, he would be alive today. I believe that our ER departments are understaffed and overcrowded. Without these required resources, people are dying,” Sharron wrote.

“Our government needs to recognize this and act on it now. I feel that diagnoses are being made hastily due to the lack of time the doctors have to actually spend with a patient, and this is leading to preventable deaths.”

Premier Christy Clark was asked about the overcrowding issue within the Fraser Health Authority during a news conference in Merritt last week. While she expressed concern over the issue, she blamed it on a particularly bad flu season.

“We hear about it almost every year that we have a bad flu, so that’s why we’ve been building hospitals and health care… As my father used to say, ‘It’s tough to build a church big enough for Easter.’ And when we have a very, very difficult flu season as we’ve had this year, it really does put stress on the system,” she said. “Yes, we’re concerned about it, and the answer to it is to continue to build.”

 

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