7-Year-Old Girl With Autism Dies Of Sepsis After Being Unable To Say How Sick She Was Feeling

A 7-year-old girl with autism has sadly died after developing sepsis after being misdiagnosed with flu. Betty Wattenburger from Aubrey, Texas, was taken to an urgent care center when she fell ill in January 2019. Based on her symptoms, a nurse diagnosed Betty with a simple flu, but because the little girl was nonverbal, she as unable to convey how ill she felt and the fact that she had sepsis was never realized until it was too late.

  1. Betty’s father thinks more should have been done. “We’re asking about why is Betty … she seems to be breathing really hard and rapid,” Jeremy Wattenburger recalled to WKRG. “They said, ‘Well, it’s probably because she has a fever of 102.9.'” No medical tests were performed. Instead, they sent Betty home with ibuprofen. When he woke up the next morning, Jeremy noticed his daughter was gravely ill and had blood coming out of her mouth.
  2. Her misdiagnosis is what killed her. When Jeremy rushed Betty to the emergency room the next morning, doctors revealed that she’d developed pneumonia in her lungs and that she had sepsis. Less than 15 hours after she’d gone to Pediatric Urgent Care Denton near Dallas-Fort Worth, Betty sadly passed away. “There were a lot of things that were missed,” Jeremy said.
  3. If only Betty could have communicated how ill she was. Jeremy believes that if Betty could have expressed just how sick she was feeling, more might have been done at the urgent care facility to uncover her diagnosis and her life could have been saved. Instead, a grieving family is now without their little girl. “There are a lot of things about Betty that with her passing… it took a lot of light out of this home, and it brought a lot of sorrow to this home,” he said.
  4. Jeremy is now seeking answers about what went wrong. While the Texas Medical Board won’t confirm or deny whether an investigation is happening, it is believed that the nurse who treated Betty was disciplined for not properly completing medical records. The nurse is said to be undergoing additional training so that incidents like this don’t happen again in the future.
Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill