Five-year-old Rozalia Spadafora had been counting down her birthday for weeks. She couldn’t wait for the big day, to receive her gifts and to have a Bluey-themed party.
However, in the days leading up to her fifth birthday, the little girl, who lived in Canberra with her mum and dad, started to develop mild flu-like symptoms. She complained of sore ears and a fever.
The night before Rozalia’s birthday, her mum Katrina took her to the GP which is attached to Canberra Hospital. The doctor sent them home with antihistamines and an oral liquid for Rozalia’s slight cough.
On July 4th – her birthday, Katrina and her husband Guiseppe had filled the playroom with birthday gifts for their little girl – a new bike, a Bluey scooter and helmet, a mermaid doll, a makeup bag, Barbies, a luggage set and a few more gifts.
In the fridge was a special Bluey cake Katrina had made earlier and the family had plans to go to the zoo for her big day.
‘I’m too tired to walk’
However, when Rozalia woke up, she was too tired to even open her gifts. That morning she drifted in and out of sleep, too weak to make it to the lounge.
She said to me, ‘Mummy, can you carry me to the living room? Because I’m too tired to walk, I can’t walk,” a heartbroken Katrina told A Current Affair.
Although she was eating and drinking, she wasn’t passing any urine.
At 5pm, Katrina scooped up her daughter and took her to the GP.
Rozalia’s presents remained unopened in the playroom.
The GP told Katrina to take her to the ER as they would need blood work done. At this stage, Rozalia had an elevated heart rate.
Didn’t take them seriously
When she arrived Katrina said she was told by two nurses to take Rozalia home and go to the doctor in the morning.
We just looked at each other and thought, ‘We’re not here for a joke. We’re here because she is sick,” Rozalia’s grandmother, Maria Callipari, said.
The family believes from the start nurses didn’t take them seriously, only giving the little girl Hydralyte, water and some Panadol.
It looked like she was sleeping but she was out of it, just lifeless, white, pale,” Katrina said.
Tragically, Rozalia got worse and worse as she remained in the ED. It took 8 hours for the nurses to take her bloods and by then, Rozalia was vomiting.
At 7am the next morning, a very sick Rozalia was taken to intensive care for a chest X-Ray and liver ultrasound. By then, her heart was failing. The medical team made the decision to transfer her to a Sydney hospital via helicopter. However, the helicopter wasn’t able to land.
‘They couldn’t bring her back’
Almost 30 hours after Rozalia arrived at Canberra Hospital, she went into cardiac arrest.
Rozalia took her last breath at 10.20pm on July 5 – one day after turning five years old.
I looked over to Rozalia and I could see that she had this glare in her eye,” Katrina said. “They called us aside and said, ‘She’s gone, she’s gone.”
“They couldn’t bring her back.”
Katrina returned home to a playroom full of unopened presents and so many unanswered questions. How could this have happened?
A treatable complication
A devastated Katrina recently sat down with A Current Affair, just one month after her daughter’s unexpected death, to relive the horror. She is begging for answers from the hospital and hoping that Rozalia’s tragic death will prompt the authorities to do something about the understaffed hospitals.
With almost half a million people now living in the nation’s capital, there is no children’s hospital in Canberra or access to paediatric specialists.
Katrina was not given any answers after leaving and it was only until the media stepped in that she has received contact from health authorities.
I have an answer from the police, a coroner that has told me her death was myocarditis due to influenza A,” Katrina said.
Cardiologist Dr Ross Walker said Rozalia suffered a rare but treatable complication of the flu.
It’s a very difficult diagnosis for someone who’s not in the area of cardiology to pick up on very quickly,” Dr Walker said.
“Clearly over the few days that she was getting sicker, her condition was deteriorating markedly.
If it was recognised earlier, there was the possibility she could have been treated earlier and she may have responded to the early treatment.”
Katrina said one of her biggest regrets is not speaking up to staff when she knew her daughter’s condition was deteriorating.
You see all those signs around the hospital, ‘Don’t raise your voice, because you’re going to get kicked out,” she said.
“As a parent you just want to be so civilised, so if you say something and say something in the wrong manner you’re going to be pushed to the back of the list.”
There will be an investigation into the death of the little girl. Katrina also hopes that by sharing her daughter’s story, other mothers won’t have to go through the same horror that she did.
She hopes that every parent can feel safe when they take their sick child to hospital.
Please take mothers seriously when we come in there with our children, just take us seriously. We’re not there to waste anyone’s time, we’re here for help,” Katrina said.
We hope that Rozalia’s family gets the answers that they deserve.