A Manitoba mother is suing the province after her toddler died due to complications from cancer that went undiagnosed despite at least 40 visits to a northern nursing station.
Alexandria Harper's daughter Violet was almost three when she died in December 2013.
At the time of her death, she had a cancerous tumour larger than a softball in her 30-pound body.
Violet was sick for much of her short life, but a lawsuit filed in the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench alleges the only medications she received from the St. Theresa Point First Nation nursing station included Tylenol and Pedialyte.
On her first visit to a Winnipeg hospital, one month before Violet died, doctors discovered a large cancerous tumour on her kidney.
By that time, the cancer had spread to her lungs and liver, and she had a blood clot that extended from her kidney to her lungs.
The lawsuit, filed late last month, names the defendants as the Northern Regional Health Authority, the Government of Manitoba and Dr. Afshin Mobarakeh. It alleges negligence on behalf of the doctor and nursing staff at the St. Theresa Point First Nation nursing station contributed to the girl's death.
According to the statement of claim, Violet's mother took her to the nursing station about 40 times between March 2011 and December 2013.
'Holding stomach and crying'
Violet saw multiple nurses, nurse practitioners, health-care staff and Dr. Mobarakeh.
The statement of claim says Harper "desired, and was willing and able, to attend an appointment with a physician or pediatrician to provide timely access to the necessary services, but was prevented from doing so by the lack of availability of either a physician or pediatrician at the nursing station."
Violet had been consistently nauseated, had a fever, had no appetite, had a number of colds and ear infections and had bouts of vomiting and diarrhea that lasted days.
In the months before her death, the girl was losing weight, vomiting frequently and "had started holding her stomach and crying," the statement of claim says.
The document says her mother would call and visit the nursing station frequently.
On one occasion, Harper says she was given instruction on the importance of iron in her daughter's diet.
In late October 2013, she called the nursing station in the middle of the night, saying her daughter was holding her stomach and crying.
The next morning she took the girl to have her examined.
Cancer diagnosed in 1 day at Winnipeg hospital
Over the next month, Violet had three blood samples and two stool samples taken. One test had to be redone because of an "administrative error," the statement of claim says.
Her mother pointed out lumps on her daughter's stomach multiple times to staff at the nursing station, according to the claim.
In early December, a new doctor, Habib Vakilitahami, saw Violet for extreme fatigue and a nosebleed.
'Violet Kaylyn Harper's suffering and death were entirely preventable,' - Alexandria Harper's statement of claim
That doctor had the girl medevaced to the Children's Hospital in Winnipeg.
The next day, a CT scan revealed a tumour larger than a softball on one of her kidneys.
The cancer was in "its late stage and had spread throughout her internal organs," the statement of claim says.
Violet was immediately sent to Edmonton to begin chemotherapy, but she died nine days later during a procedure to insert a breathing tube when a blood clot moved to her lungs. It was less than two weeks after her initial cancer diagnosis.
"Violet Kaylyn Harper's suffering and death were entirely preventable," the statement of claim reads. "Her medical condition was treatable, but the medical institutions and professionals that Violet Kaylyn Harper relied on for care failed in their duty to provide her with proper and timely care."
Doctor singled out in lawsuit
The lawsuit alleges Dr. Mobarakeh "failed to diagnose Violet's condition and failed to provide specialist medical consultation."
Of particular concern was the girl's weight loss, which the lawsuit calls a "significant indicator" of illness in infants.
Harper wanted appointments with specialists, and even asked staff at the nursing station for them, but did not receive a referral until the month her daughter died, the statement of claim alleges.
"Diagnosis of the presence of the Wilms tumour came far later than it should have had the appropriate standard of care been applied by Dr. Mobarakeh," the statement of claim reads, adding had the diagnosis been made earlier, Violet's likelihood of surviving would have been higher and she would have needed a less aggressive treatment, which increased the risk of complications.
While the lawsuit has been filed, the province has not yet been served.
Counsel for Harper says that's expected to happen within the next four weeks.
The allegations have not been proven in court, and no statements of defence have been filed.
Manitoba Health Minister Sharon Blady declined to comment because the matter is before the courts.