Benjamin Wells with the toy Kawasaki motorbike he was given during his hospital stay.
Benjamin Wells with the toy Kawasaki motorbike he was given during his hospital stay. Hannah Busch

Mum's instinct leads to diagnosis

HERVEY Bay mum Rachel Wells has urged parents to stand their ground after she fought to have her son diagnosed with a rare blood disease.

Eight-year-old Benjamin Wells was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease last week after he failed to recover from unexplained symptoms that lasted for almost two weeks.

Kawasaki disease is characterised by an inflammation of the blood vessels and can cause problems in the coronary arteries. Only 200 cases are diagnosed in Australia each year.

Mrs Wells originally thought it was measles but phoned the 13 Health hotline after his symptoms did not go away.

A paediatrician friend told her it may have been Kawasaki disease when Benjamin's hands and feet began to peel.

A nurse from the Hervey Bay Hospital was going to send them home after diagnosing Benjamin with a virus, but Mrs Wells insisted they check for Kawasaki disease.

“I thought, this is one time I'm going to stand my ground,” she said.

It wasn't until a doctor ran through a list of symptoms, Mrs Wells said, that they decided to take it seriously and admitted Benjamin to the hospital for two days.

He will have to have regular echocardiograms and blood pressure tests until doctors give him the all-clear in about two months.

He may have to have check ups every three to five years for the rest of his life as heart complications can appear at any time.

The keen swimmer will have to wait months before he can return to sport.

“They said he was a classic case of Kawasaki,” Mrs Wells said.

Benjamin's symptoms included cracked, swollen lips, red eyes, peeling skin and a rash.

“He was quite a novelty at the hospital.”

Several student doctors visited and interviewed Benjamin because the disease is so rare in Australia.

It was discovered in Japan by Dr Tomisaku Kawasaki less than 50 years ago.

It primarily affects children under the age of five but doctors told Mrs Wells they are discovering more cases in children aged 5-9.

Mrs Wells' other three sons didn't quite understand what was wrong with Benjamin.

“His little brother asked: ‘Did you swallow a motorbike?'”

Kawasaki Disease symptoms

  • Fever that lasts for several days
  • Rash and redness in the hands and feet.
  • Swollen, cracked lips. Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Red tongue
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Skin peeling on fingers and toes
  • Extreme irritability, especially in younger children.

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