03/15/2016 11:32 EDT | Updated 03/15/2016 11:59 EDT

David And Collet Stephan Trial: Doctor Testifies Toddler Was Rushed To Hospital Too Late

The doctor testified bacterial meningitis is fatal if not treated with antibiotics.


LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — A pediatrician says a toddler who died of bacterial meningitis four years ago had less than a one per cent chance of surviving by the time he was rushed to an Alberta hospital.

Dr. Shauna Burkholder testified Monday at the negligence trial of the boy's parents, David and Collet Stephan.

Burkholder, who works at Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary, said medical staff at a smaller hospital near their home was able to revive Ezekiel Stephan, but it's likely the nearly 19-month-old boy was already brain dead at that point.

She first saw Ezekiel at 2:45 a.m. on March 14, 2012, and found he had a "very severe and significant brain injury,'' adding a CT scan of the child's swollen brain was "devastating.''

Burkholder testified bacterial meningitis is fatal if not treated with antibiotics and if it's suspected, treatment should begin immediately.

The Stephans, who were living in Glenwood, a small town about 80 kilometres southwest of Lethbridge at the time of their son's death, are charged with failing to provide the necessities of life.

The Crown contends the couple didn't do enough to ensure the toddler had proper access to medical care before he became seriously ill.

The jury heard last week that Ezekiel became ill near the end of February 2012 and his parents suspected he had croup.

For the next few weeks they gave him water and fluids bolstered with vitamins, minerals and holistic ingredients to keep him hydrated and boost his immune system. At times they had to use an eye dropper when the child refused to eat, but occasionally his health appeared to improve.

One of Stephans' friends, who is also a registered nurse, checked the child's vital signs at the couple's home, but couldn't identify an illness. She did suspect viral meningitis, however, and recommended the couple take Ezekiel to a doctor.

The Stephans researched treatments online and the following day they picked up an echinacea mixture from a naturopath in Lethbridge. By then, however, Ezekiel was too stiff to sit in his car seat and had to lie on a mattress in the Stephan's vehicle as they drove to Lethbridge.

In mid-March, Ezekiel stopped breathing and he was rushed to Cardston hospital, then flown to Calgary where he died a week later. The Stephans were charged almost a year later.

(Lethbridge Herald)

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