A school trip to Europe turned tragic for a 15-year-old boy who died after teachers dismissed his illness as homesickness.
Melbourne student Timothy Fehring, a student of Blackburn High, School set off to Europe with 16 other students, and two school staff members in June, 2019 but fell ill as soon as arriving at the group's first stop.
Fehring Started Vomiting, Complained of Stomach Cramps
After arriving in Berlin, Germany, on June 23, the teen threw up in a bin, which was attributed by one of the adults to a reaction from spicy food served on the flight, a coroner's findings state.
The following day, Timothy complained of stomach cramps after having not eaten the day before and was given some Panadol. During a lunch break, he vomited into a bin again and was suspected of "suffering the effects of jet lag, different food, the heat, and change of climate".
On the way to dinner that night he was sick into a street bin again, but had messaged his mother, "Working on getting better so I can have a better time." Both adults at that stage suspected he may have been homesick.
Timothy Felt 'No One Believed Him'
Staff members became increasingly worried when Timothy's continued to complain of symptoms. He was taken to a pharmacy where he was given Buscopan to help ease his stomach.Timothy told his mother he wanted to go home and his mum asked the school staff to take him to see a doctor. The coroner's report found that Timothy had "expressed dissatisfaction about how he was being treated," and he felt that no one believed him."
The teen was eventually taken to see a doctor at Munich Children's Hospital. He "appeared exhausted and was visibly pale and had noticeably lost weight", while on a walking tour that day. There he was told he had severe constipation and gastro, which could have been connected to feeling homesick, the doctor confirmed before clearing him to leave.
Staff Thought Timothy was Just Trying to Avoid Activities
On June 27, five days into the trip, the group travelled to Vienna, Austria and went on a walking tour of the city. Staff encouraged him to eat foods that would aid his constipation, the report revealed. He told them he wanted to go to a hospital but staff considered he was trying to avoid doing planned activities, the coroner found. Timothy asked not to go as he wasn't feeling up to it, but he did anyway with a "vomit bag" in tow.
Timothy Died Just Before His Flight Back Home
He had been allowed to go home and a flight was booked. Before his arranged flight home to Australia on June 29, the teen visited a GP to get a fit-to-travel certificate.
The doctor noted Timothy appeared tired and pale faced, but "did not appear truly sick." He was prescribed an anxiety medication and released. While the staff member paid the bill, Timothy took himself outside into the hallway because it had been "hot and stuffy" inside. By the time someone found him, he was sitting on the floor with vomit on his clothing and blood coming from his nose.
It took more than 10 minutes for the teacher to get hold of a doctor. Doctors performed CPR for up to seven minutes before he was rushed to a hospital in Vienna for treatment.
Cause of Death
Once there, his pupils were at "maximal dilation", which indicated a lack of oxygen leading to brain injury. Timothy died on June 28, one day before flying home to Australia. An autopsy following his death revealed the teen had a "highly acute" infection in his stomach and lungs. He also suffered a heart attack.
Staff Didn't Take Timothy Seriously
The heartbreaking news came as a shock to Mr and Mrs Fehring who said they weren't made away of how sick their son really was. Now, the heartbroken parents are calling for an overhaul of school staffing requirements on international tours, and argue their son should have received better care.
"Children shouldn't die. It's just something that's so tragic," Dad dale told Ten News.
"It's been a really hard three years, we just have to cope. It's very hard to be happy"
"When he said he was sick and said something wasn't right, that was the truth," his mum told a local news outlet.
The mother suggested a school nurse could have helped save her son's life by knowing it wasn't homesickness causing his symptoms. Coroner Simon McGregor declared that staff on the trip "made the wrong judgement call" about Timothy's condition, and failed to take them seriously.