‘Catalogue of errors’: Man, 20, died of flesh-eating virus after doctors misdiagnosed symptoms as tonsillitis

Ellen Manning

Sun, 19 February 2023 at 5:06 pm GMT

Luke Abrahams playing football. See SWNS story SWLSdeath; Grieving parents are demanding answers over the death of their son who died suddenly of ‘infection’ a week after complaining of a sore throat. Luke Abrahams, 20, was initially diagnosed with tonsillitis on Sunday, January 15 after calling his GP at Penvale Medical Centre, East Hunsbury, Northants. However, a week later, the railway engineer died on the operating table of ‘natural causes’ at Northampton General Hospital. A post-mortem examination has now revealed Luke died after contracting septicaemia, Lemierre syndrome – a form of bacterial infection, and necrotising fasciitis – a flesh-eating disease. Despite receiving information about the cause of death, heartbroken parents Richard Abrahams, 60 and Julie Needham, 49, feel their son’s misdiagnosis may have cost them his life and want to launch a legal investigation into the loss of their eldest son.
Luke Abrahams died after contracting septicaemia, a bacterial infection and a flesh-eating disease, but had been diagnosed with tonsillitis. (SWNS)

A healthy young man died of a flesh-eating virus after doctors misdiagnosed it as tonsillitis.

Luke Abrahams, 20, was originally prescribed antibiotics after going to his GP feeling unwell and suffering from a sore throat, but his condition worsened and within days he was taken into hospital where he died despite undergoing surgery.

A post mortem examination revealed he had been suffering from septicaemia, Lemierre syndrome – a form of bacterial infection – and flesh-eating disease necrotising fasciitis.

His parents have now criticised medics for a ‘catalogue of errors’ that they say meant several opportunities to save their son were missed.

The 20-year-old’s father Richard, 60, said: “I can’t say whether he would definitely be here now, but they cut corners and misdiagnosed him.

“Whichever way you look at it, none of the healthcare providers did their job properly. We’re just left with ‘what ifs’.”

Luke Abrahams (centre) with his family - father Richard (left), mother Julie Needham, 49, and younger brother Jake, 16 (right). (SWNS)
Luke Abrahams (centre) with his family – father Richard (left), mother Julie Needham, 49, and younger brother Jake, 16 (right). (SWNS)

Keen footballer Abrahams was initially diagnosed with tonsillitis after calling his GP at Penvale Medical Centre, East Hunsbury, Northamptonshire on 15 January.

Two days later he still felt unwell so phoned his GP but couldn’t get through, and his family said when nobody called him back, he dialled 111.

The operator advised Abrahams to go to A&E, telling him he would likely be put on an intravenous drip, but his family say that never happened and he left the hospital without receiving treatment.

The following day, the 20-year-old started experiencing leg pains and after another 111 call followed by a Zoom consultation with a doctor, was diagnosed with sciatica and prescribed naproxen – an anti-inflammatory painkiller.

But his condition continued to worsen and he became unable to get out of bed, prompting his mother to call and beg for an ambulance, as well as calling their doctors to ask for help to take him to A&E.

An ambulance was eventually sent to the family’s home but paramedics put Abrahams’ high heart rate and temperature down to him fighting an infection.

Luke Abrahams' mother Julie (left) and his father are now considering launching legal action after claiming their son was misdiagnosed. (SWNS)
Luke Abrahams’ mother Julie (left) and his father are now considering launching legal action after claiming their son was misdiagnosed. (SWNS)

Two days later, on 22 January, the railway engineer told his mother: “I can’t take the pain anymore” and an ambulance was again sent to the family’s home and he was taken to hospital.

“We got a call at 1am from Luke saying ‘can you come down, they want to see you,’ and that’s when we were told he has a 50/50 chance of survival,” his mum Julie Needham, 49, said.

“The doctors said he’s really poorly, he’s got this bacterial eating infection and it’s a life-threatening situation.”

Medics amputated the 20-year-old’s leg, but Abrahams died in surgery.

The couple from Northampton, who also have a younger son Jake, 16, are now considering legal action, accusing doctors of a “catalogue of errors” that led to their son being misdiagnosed.

Richard Abrahams said: “We are not going to stop fighting this case and want answers. I don’t want the condolences, I want answers.

“It’s a catalogue of errors. No one’s going to bring him back but I want these people punished.

“I’m not taking any of that, ‘we’ll learn from our mistakes’, there’s too much of that going on, someone should have taken him in for a proper test.”

He added: “No one has taken any responsibility over his death.

“When he first went to the doctors and then started complaining about a pain in his leg, he should have been given more tests.

“What is the point of over the phone consultations with the doctor. Doctors need to see you in person to give a correct diagnosis and that is why he was misdiagnosed.”

A spokesperson for Integrated Care Northamptonshire said: “On behalf of the NHS in Northamptonshire, we wish to express our sincere condolences to the family and our thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.

“All providers are reviewing the care and treatment provided in this case and until such time as their reviews are completed, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

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