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May 7, 2015

MOH Investigates Death of Student

Veronica Cal

A young girl died on Tuesday at the K.H.M.H., and it has resulted in a minor panic at the school she attended. Five year old Stella Maris student Veronica Cal took ill suddenly with flu-like symptoms last Thursday, and by the time she was admitted to the K.H.M.H. on Monday, there was nothing doctors could do to save her. Because the cause of death is unknown, the Ministry of Health mobilized at her school and the word meningitis was thrown out as a possibility. That, quite naturally, resulted in a minor scare at the school, which is how it came to our attention today. Mike Rudon has the story.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

Five year old Veronica Cal was a happy, smart, helpful child, and loved to play. She was playing cards on Thursday night when she suddenly started vomiting. By Friday she had a slight fever, so her parents gave her Tylenol. On Saturday they took her to the Cleopatra White Polyclinic and got some medication for the vomiting and fever, but on Sunday she was worse. On Monday they panicked and took her to the emergency ward at the KHMH and Veronica was admitted, in critical condition.


Mario Cal, Father of Veronica Cal

“Ten o’clock my gial call me again to say the baby deh get worse, soh I hurry gawn. When I reach the baby start to ketch like I noh know what…ih hand like this, ih mouth noh wah open and all the foam come out through her mouth. Then all the doctors start to rush now but they can’t save her again. That’s how I see it, to me, because they couldn’t find the sickness weh deh kill ah.”


Veronica was a deaf mute, but even though she couldn’t say the words, her mother says that by Tuesday she was in obvious pain. She had started to bleed from her nose and mouth and was in obvious distress. And then, she was gone.


Mario Cal

Filiberta Salam, Mother of Veronica Cal

“The nurse tried to help mek she life come back and three times she bring ah back again, but after that, maybe the fourth time, the machine gawn forever.”


Mario Cal

“When I reach back again they bring ah back again…and I mi happy again but I see bout five minutes after the doctor deh run back again because we mi allowed to go inside. So we stay there and watch and watch until to the last they tell we the specialist doctor reach. She tried to fight her life back but looks like the fourth time look like she can’t. So when I hear the doctor call me he seh bad news…she dead. So I noh have nothing to do again. That was my last baby and I loved her a lot. I gave all my heart that I could love her. I really loved her but she left me inna pain right now. I can’t tek it no more.”


Interim Head of the Epidemiology Unit, Marvin Manzanero, says that tests were done on the child and they have gotten a preliminary diagnosis.


Marvin Manzanero

Voice of: Marvin Manzanero, Interim Head, Epidemiology Unit

“The preliminary lab result that was given yesterday is that it was pneumococcal meningitis. Pneumococcus is a bacteria that is a common cause of the flu, but it doesn’t mean that anybody who gets the flu has the bacteria, nor anybody who gets the flu from that bacteria will be getting meningitis. There are usually other conditions that predispose a patient to complicate themselves with that particular bacteria.”


Manzanero says that there is no reason to be panicked or even unduly concerned at this point, and although health personnel have gone into the school, it is more out of an abundance of caution and prevention than anything else. He says that it had to have been a number of factors which contributed to the death of Veronica Cal.


Voice of: Marvin Manzanero

“When she arrived at the Karl Heusner she was incubated that same day so she did arrive in a critical state and just went on a downward spiral. I don’t know what other predisposed conditions the patient may have had that caused that but it’s not the norm.”


But while that is the position of the Ministry of Health, Veronica’s parents want answers. They want to know why their child, the youngest of five, is dead.


Filiberta Salam

Mario Cal

“They noh do the post mortem yet. I gawn this morning but they tell me again tomorrow six o’clock. Soh I gwein tomorrow again and I will know exactly what the doctor will tell me. I gawn to school this morning too and they tell me they noh know too because the health inspector was there too checking everything to find out what happened, what caused the problem.”


Filiberta Salam

“Because they noh really know what killed my baby because they only said that she had a bad sickness, bad infection. They neva know da what.”


The post-mortem examination, to be conducted on Friday, will hopefully provide some answers to the grieving family. But meanwhile the Ministry of health reiterates that there is no need at this time to be concerned about this isolated case. Mike Rudon for News Five.


We note that Pneumococcal Meningitis has a mortality rate of less than twenty percent. When Veronica Cal was admitted to the K.H.M.H., she was also suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection and acute gastroenteritis, both factors which likely contributed to her death.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “MOH Investigates Death of Student”

  1. Egbert Grinage says:

    It is probably time for MOH to look into making pneumococcal conjugated vaccine PCV part of the vaccine arsenal administered free of cost to children in Belize.
    The latest version called PCV 13 is active against 13 strains or serotypes of the bacteria pneumococcus responsible for this child’s death.
    This vaccine is very effective in preventing invasive infections such as pneumonia, bacteremia, osteomyelitis and meningitis in susceptible children infected by it.
    It is administered at 2, 4, 6 months and a booster dose is given at 12- 15 months and is usually given along with the other vaccines currently given at our healthcare clinics.
    Most children who see private Pediatricians in Belize already receive this vaccine in Belize.
    It is cost effective and the time has come to make it available to prevent such deaths.
    Pneumonia is a common infection and a leading cause of hospital admission in children under seven years in Belize.

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