3-Year-Old Dies in Mom's Arms After Doctors Misdiagnose Her With Just Constipation

Aoife Flanagan-Gibbs

A mother wracked with grief over the death of her 3-year-old is speaking out about the tragic misdiagnosis that lead to her daughter's passing. Eilish Flanagan, of Rayleigh, England, first brought her daughter, Aoife Flanagan-Gibbs, to the doctor in June, after the toddler complained of pains in her stomach and other parts of her body. But just weeks after her symptoms were initially dismissed as mere constipation, the toddler died in her mother's arms, Essex Live reported.

  • Over the course of three weeks, Flanagan took her daughter to the doctor 11 times, convinced something serious was wrong with her.

    "She'd been in and out of [the] hospital with different infections and problems," the mother told Essex Live, "but they kept telling us she had common child constipation."

    Little Aoife's ailments, however, went beyond just mere stomach pains. She felt pain in other parts of her body too, and had a visible tumor on her buttocks, her mom said.

    It would take repeated visits to the doctor and the mother's persistent demands for more testing for doctors to finally discover the "bump" was in fact a sign of something more.

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  • To make matters worse, the mom says doctors insinuated the toddler's ailments might be due to her being improperly fed.

    "As a mother, I knew there was something else wrong," she told Essex Live. "I raised my concerns and she had pains in other areas of her body but the doctors never examined her. She had a tumor on her bottom, but they failed to investigate it."

    Finally, Flanagan's daughter received an X-ray, which clearly showed she had a tumor -- not constipation.

    "She had a huge tumor in her liver blocking her bowel," the mother told the outlet. "When we were waiting to be transferred to [that hospital], we were shown an X-ray, and you could see the diseases and tumors. We were aware it was in her liver and we knew we were in a bad situation."

  • Once she was transferred to the second hospital, doctors confirmed the family's fears: Aoife had germ cell cancer. 

    The rare strain of the disease is caused by a malignant tumor that, according to Children with Cancer UK, accounts for a mere 3 percent of childhood cancer cases in the United Kingdom.

    The most tragic part about this story is that although the survival rate for children with germ cell cancers is reportedly 93 percent, the fact that Aoife's symptoms were misdiagnosed for so long denied her the ability to seek treatment quickly.

  • The little girl passed away on July 7, just five days after doctors officially diagnosed her.

    "It was completely unexpected, she had a huge cardiac arrest," her mother shared. "I held her because I knew something was wrong with her. She died in my arms."

    The mother has launched a charity in her daughter's honor, which she's named Aoife's Bubbles. According to a GoFundMe page created by the family, the organization is devoted to raising awareness and educating health care professionals about germ cell cancer.

    "The charity also wants to provide respite and joy for children with cancer and to provide for their families," the GoFundMe page states. 

    To date it's raised more than $1,500 toward its goal.