Metal from her braces traveled to heart, causing a deadly infection.
15-year-old Leah Kitchen from Hull, United Kingdom visited her dentist to get her braces tightened. She never knew it would be the start of a deadly journey she had to endure and would forever affect her way of life.
One week after her visit to the dentist, Leah fell sick. She began experiencing fever, headaches, joint and muscle pains and was vomiting uncontrollably. The doctor diagnosed her with flu, gave her medication, and simply sent her home.
Leah’s mom, Andrea, said: “They were kind of like, ‘Why are you here? She has flu.’ I took her to the doctors who said the same thing but as soon as she got home she started throwing up.”
However, Leah’s mom noticed that Leah’s personality changed in extreme ways. Leah’s mental state slowly deteriorated. She also suffered from two mini-strokes, further worsening her condition. She became extremely confused and forgetful at times. “She was asking when we had got a new washing machine and a new carpet,” Leah’s mom said. “I took her to Hull Royal where she had a CRP blood test. Where her levels were meant to be zero, they were 260.”
Doctors initially started testing and treating Leah for meningitis, but a lumbar puncture test and an MRI scan ruled out that infection.
Andrea said: “They did an MRI scan which she was only meant to be in for 20 minutes but she was in there for two and a half hours. They found she had an infection in her spine to her brain which meant she had had two mini-strokes.
“They also found she had some vegetation on her heart from the metal on the braces – which must have been very sharp – and that had jumped to her brain. It was this that was causing the confusion.”
Doctors diagnosed Leah with endocarditis—a rare and potentially fatal infection of the inner lining of the heart. It is mostly caused by bacteria entering the blood and traveling to the heart. Leah’s family believes the metal from Leah’s braces had pushed the bacteria into the teenager’s bloodstream, causing the infection.
Traumatized by the experience, Andrea said: “You don’t think something like that will happen to you.
“In something like that, you think the worst-case scenario. You think, ‘oh my god something is going to happen to my baby.’
“This kind of thing changes you as a person.”
Today, both mother and daughter are doing everything they can to raise awareness about endocarditis.