A five-month-old boy is fighting for his life with blood cancer after doctors missed his diagnosis and said his symptoms were down to a chest infection.
Fred Turp was rushed to Basildon University Hospital, Essex, on December 27 last year after he developed a ‘cough and a cold’ and was ‘struggling to breathe’.
But doctors soon discovered Fred had an abnormal white blood cell count of 50,000, ten times the average, and urgently referred him to children’s specialists Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), London, with suspected acute myeloid leukaemia.
It was only the next day when doctors changed their mind on the advice of GOSH and told his mother Amy Nunnery, 24, his cancer symptoms were probably just a ‘strange reaction’ to his chest infection.
Fred Turp’s mother Amy Nunnery, 24, was told by Basildon University Hospital his cancer symptoms were probably just a ‘strange reaction’ to his chest infection
Two weeks later he was rushed to A&E and is now battling acute myeloid leukaemia at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London
After a feeling of ‘huge relief’, Fred’s mother and his father Brennan Turp, 25, were given a phone number to book a follow-up blood test two weeks after he was discharged on January 1, 2023.
But the family ran into more problems after trying for a week and a half to call the hospital and ‘not a single person answered’ – while Fred’s health got noticeably worse.
Miss Nunnery said he wasn’t ‘eating or sleeping’ and was showing symptoms of a ‘viral infection’ with a ‘mild temperature’ and a rash that looked like ‘pin-prick bruises’ on his leg.
What is acute myeloid leukaemia?
Leukaemia is cancer of the white blood cells.
Acute leukaemia means it progresses quickly and aggressively and usually requires urgent treatment.
It is classified according to the type of white blood cells affected.
The two main types of white blood cells are:
– Monocytes and granulocytes, which come from myeloid stem cells
– Lymphocytes, which come from lymphoid stem cells
The symptoms of AML usually develop over a few weeks and become worse over time.
Symptoms can include:
– Looking pale or ‘washed out’
– Feeling tired or weak
– Frequent infections
– Unusual and frequent bruising or bleeding, such as bleeding gums or nosebleeds
– Losing weight without trying to
She said her ‘motherly instincts’ told her something was wrong and the doctors must have missed something, so Fred was rushed back to Basildon University Hospital A&E on January 24.
It was only then that doctors found his white blood cells had more than tripled to 170,000 and realised he had acute myeloid leukaemia, urgently referring him to GOSH.
Miss Nunnery told MailOnline: ‘When we arrived at A&E they initially said it was a viral infection and prescribed a throat spray.
‘It was only when his blood tests came back they knew it was leukaemia. It really gave us a false sense of hope.
‘We felt confident he didn’t have leukaemia as the doctors at Basildon surely wouldn’t have sent us home with cancer as still a risk.
‘We just feel incredibly let down. If we had been able to book the blood test then we may have been able to catch this slightly earlier and given Fred a better start to his treatment.’
He arrived at GOSH the same evening where he was finally diagnosed with cancer after being given an emergency lumbar puncture because he was ‘so unwell’.
Miss Nunnery added: ‘It’s just so unfair. We had a harder time believing doctors because they said he didn’t have leukaemia in December.
‘To see him so unwell as parents is the worst thing in the world.’
Fred’s family set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help cover the costs of travel, accommodation and any other bills while they stay at GOSH for his course of chemotherapy and recovery – you can donate to it here.
He completed his first round of chemotherapy last week after 11 days in hospital and is expected to stay longer for recovery.
Miss Nunnery wrote on Instagram: ‘He has absolutely smashed it and considering the place we were in 11 days ago, I can’t believe the difference in him.
‘Despite his little body being pumped full of all sorts, he looks better, is more himself and is also happier than ever.
‘All of his blood work has been stable and he hasn’t required any more oxygen.
I know the next few weeks are going to be challenging but we will just take each day as it comes and continue to pray that this first round has worked and he goes into remission.’
Dr David Walker, Chief Medical Officer at Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, told MailOnline: ‘We offer our full support to the family at this distressing time.
‘We followed the correct procedure. Any suspected leukaemia in a child is always referred to a paediatric specialist hospital for review.
‘The Trust was advised by the specialist team that this was unlikely to be leukaemia and in line with advice, we asked the family to return for review.
‘We are sorry that the family had difficulty contacting our blood test line on the phone.
‘We have now put systems in place to ensure families are able to book urgent blood tests.’
Amy Nunnery, 24, pictured with Fred last year before he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia
Brennan Turp (left), 25, pictured with his partner Miss Nunnery and Fred last Christmas, two days before he was taken to Basildon University Hospital, Essex