Baby dies after mother was told she had a stomach bug

  • Six-month-old died from meningitis
  • Her mother was told she just had a stomach bug  

A mother was left devastated after her six-month-old baby died from meningitis just a week after she was rushed to hospital and told it was just a stomach bug. 

Doctors told Brisbane mother Carly Goya her six-month-old daughter Mabel’s sickness was due to a stomach bug after rushing her to Queensland Children’s Hospital in September 2021. 

But just a week later, baby Mabel failed to wake up after falling asleep in her father’s arms. 

Ms Goya told Daily Mail Australia that more needs to be done ‘to keep meningitis top of mind among all healthcare professionals, especially emergency departments’.  

Doctors told Brisbane mother Carly Goya (left) her six-month-old daughter Mabel's (right) sickness was due to a stomach bug after rushing her to hospital in September 2021

Ms Goya later found out her daughter had developed meningitis after contracting a strain of pneumococcal that wasn’t covered by current vaccinations.

Meningitis is an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord and can be caused by an infection with bacteria, viruses or fungi.

It is is a serious illness that requires urgent treatment.

‘She had all her routine vaccinations … which leads you to assume your child is protected against life-threatening illnesses,’ Ms Goya said. 

One night in September 2021, Ms Goya said Mabel had woken up in the middle of the night and started vomiting.

‘She was really unwell and was vomiting and had a fever,’ Ms Goya said.

‘The next day she still wasn’t great, and we were tossing up going to the hospital or not.’

The family decided to take their baby to the emergency department, where they were fast-tracked.

‘She still wasn’t keeping anything down and she still had a fever,’ Ms Goya said.

‘So they assumed she had either UTI or gastro.’

The little girl was kept at the hospital overnight and tested for a UTI. 

Her mother said Mabel was ‘incredibly unsettled’, even though her observations indicated that everything was normal.

‘We were in a position where you think you’re in the best possible place for her … you think they know what they’re doing,’ she said.

Ms Goya later found out her daughter had developed meningitis after contracting a strain of pneumococcal that wasn't covered by current vaccinations

‘But nothing was escalated.’

Ms Goya’s husband came to the hospital the next morning so she could go home and have a break.  

But Mabel’s condition then deteriorated rapidly. 

‘She finally went to sleep in my husband’s arms sitting in a hospital chair,’ Ms Goya said.

‘But from that moment she never opened her eyes again’.

After running some tests, doctors at the hospital determined Mabel was suffering from vasculitis, which constricts blood flow to the brain, and meningitis.

Ms Goya said doctors told the family that their daughter was ‘not going to be ok’. 

After Mabel’s breathing tubes were removed a week after presenting to hospital, she went on to breathe on her own for a further 15 hours before she sadly passed away. 

‘It was just this incredible rapid progressing of this disease in such a short space of time,’ Ms Goya said.

Ms Goya said the hospital underwent a five-month review of Mabel’s care, resulting in a 40-page report and two-hour meeting, where the hospital found that it was ‘not at fault’.

But Ms Goya believes more could have been done to try to save her daughter’s life. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for Children’s Health Queensland said the investigation did not find any core failings in the care provided by the hospital.

Carly Goya believes more could have been done by medical professionals to save her daughter's life

‘Children’s Health Queensland acknowledges the impact of Mabel’s death on her family and continues to extend our deepest condolences,’ the spokesperson told 7News.

‘Every day, our dedicated teams work tirelessly to provide young patients with the best possible outcomes and are significantly impacted by the death of a child in their care.

‘We take the sudden and unexpected death of a child extremely seriously and share a family’s need for answers when this occurs.

‘We worked closely with Mabel’s family to thoroughly investigate each step of the care she received and shared the findings and recommendations with them.

‘Children’s Health Queensland is implementing all recommendations from the investigation.’

After the hospital meeting, Ms Goya says she came across a similar case in which another child, in the same ICU as their family, died of meningitis.

This prompted Ms Goya and her husband to start The Mabel Olivie Airi Foundation in December 2021, which was set up to honour Mabel’s life and push for better awareness among parents going through a similar plight.

‘For me, it is an awareness thing … because if I can’t change what hospitals are doing then what can I do to make parents more aware and to know to advocate for their children,’ Ms Goya said. 

‘Telling her story won’t bring her back, but if it can help this from happening to another family, I will tell her story over and over.’ 


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