diabetic ketoacidosis symptoms, ketoacidosis symptoms
The Hearty Soul
The Hearty Soul
February 3, 2024 ·  3 min read

The Tragedy of Misdiagnosis: Doctors Miss Teen’s Ketoacidosis Symptoms

This article was originally published in March 2018 and has since been updated.

When your child is sick, you do everything in your power to help them. From the flu to something more serious, a loving parent will always do what they can to get their child the care that they need. That’s exactly what Kieron and Claire Dunn wanted to do for their son when they took him to see a doctor, but unfortunately, it was not enough.

Doctors Dismiss Teen Boy’s Pain: A Deadly Mistake

Jack Dunn, a perfectly healthy 17 year old boy from Rhondda, South Wales told his parents that he was having severe stomach pain. Concerned for his health, his parents took him to see his general practitioner, who then sent him to the accident and emergency department at Royal Glamorgan Hospital in South Wales.

Mr. Dunn said that his son was barely able to walk due to the pain he was feeling and doctors were ‘baffled’ as to what could be ailing the boy. When Jack began showing other symptoms, the doctors were dismissive and claimed it was caused by stress.

“When Jack was finding it difficult to breathe, the doctor thought it was probably anxiety because Jack was anxious about being in hospital” Mr. Dunn said.

Doctors there performed a constipation scan and sent Jack and his parents back home, giving Jack some constipation pills and suggest that he get a good night’s sleep.

But when Jack’s father checked in on him the next day, Kieron would find Jack dead in his bed the next morning. He told the Mirror [1], “My son dead in his bed was the worst moment of my life. I believe Jack would be alive today if a few more simple tests had been carried out.”

An autopsy of Jack showed that the cause of death was ketoacidosis following extreme constipation.

Understanding the Symptoms and Risk Factors of Ketoacidosis

Ketoacidosis, also known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), is a life-threatening condition that develops when the body produces high levels of the blood acid known as ketones [2].

The condition occurs when the body can’t produce enough insulin. Insulin plays a key role in getting sugar (glucose) to your cells. Glucose is a major energy source for your muscles and tissue, and without it enough insulin our bodies begin to break down fat for energy. This leads to a backup of ketones in the blood [2].

Symptoms of ketoacidosis include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fruity-scented breath
  • Confusion

People who are in the most danger of developing ketoacidosis are those who have diabetes or are in danger of developing diabetes.

It’s important to understand that you are responsible for your own health and your family’s health; doctors can make mistakes so it’s important to work with them and be honest about your concerns and misgivings. Never be afraid to ask for a second opinion because you never know what could be an important detail.

In the case of this family’s tragedy, there was a detail that doctors were missing.

“Jack’s white blood cell count was up so that was an indicator something was going on in his body that wasn’t right,” said Mr. Dunn. “If they had tested him for ketones he would probably be alive today.”

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  1. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5355259/Teen-sent-home-E-DEAD-bed-24-hours-later.html
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-ketoacidosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20371551