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Common fungus killed Minnesota teen

mistaken asthma fibrosing mediastinitis

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#1 Hum

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 15:05

ST. MICHAEL, Minn. (KMSP) -

More than two months after a St. Michael family lost their 16-year-old daughter, her loved ones finally know what claimed her life on a hot July morning just blocks away from her home while on a run.

They told FOX 9 News that Michaela Olson had battled breathing problems for four years before her death. Doctors treated her for asthma for three years, but it turns out she never had it. In April, she was diagnosed with vocal chord dysfunction -- but that couldn't be fatal.

The soon-to-be high school junior was training for her upcoming soccer season when she collapsed on her route. At first, many people thought her death was heat-related, but the Olsons didn't believe it for a minute.

After 10 weeks of waiting, they finally know what killed the well-liked teen who hoped to become a pediatrician. Michaela Olson died from coronary artery vasculitis brought on fibrosing mediastinitis associated with pulmonary histoplasmosis.

Essentially, a fungus that is commonly found in the soil has airborne spores that can be breathed into lungs. Michaela's lungs had scar tissue inside that the fungus attached to. As it grew, it got into her blood stream and caused a lymph node near her heart to swell, along with her coronary arteries. Eventually, the swelling got so severe that blood could no longer pass through.

Though there is no way to avoid the fungus, a doctor at HCMC told FOX 9 News it's easy to diagnose but is commonly mistaken for asthma.

Most people who get it never know it because the body usually can conquer the spores, and death is extremely rare.

"Something in Michaela's body just reacted differently to it than most people," her father said.

"It's been tough -- we've been wanting to know. We've wanted something definitive," DuWayne Olson told FOX 9 News. "At the same time, after hearing what it was -- it's been even more frustrating now because, from everything we've learned, it was treatable."

DuWayne Olson said knowing that it could have been prevented rips him and his wife up inside, but they hope that sharing their stories will help save other children.

"If you have asthma -- or are diagnosed with asthma or diagnosed with VCD, if you haven't run the definitive test, run the damn test," he urged. "If we would have run the tests when we had the time to continue searching, she could be here today."

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#2 +Xinok

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 20:10

This is what irks me about modern health care. They could do so much more to properly diagnose patients, so many technologies and tests that they could administer. But whether due to a lack of time or resources (a la money), they stick to the most basic of diagnosis and resort to a process of trial and error, e.g. "here are some pills, call me in a week." By doing a more thorough diagnosis, they probably could have spared this girls life.

#3 Growled

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 23:43

This is what irks me about modern health care. They could do so much more to properly diagnose patients, so many technologies and tests that they could administer. But whether due to a lack of time or resources (a la money), they stick to the most basic of diagnosis and resort to a process of trial and error, e.g. "here are some pills, call me in a week." By doing a more thorough diagnosis, they probably could have spared this girls life.


I agree. Modern health care in so many ways falls far short of it's potential.

#4 Skin

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 23:48

I agree. Modern health care in so many ways falls far short of it's potential.


to be fair, 96% or so of people being seen have 'straightforward' cases, and it is simply a true case of pill 'em and street 'em. When overworked doctors, under-trained doctors, and even awesome doctors are hit with normally unseen stuff, it tends to go badly for the patient.

For the remaining folks, things are normally pretty rosy. You can't always blame modern medicine, since if you actually look at where we are, and where we have come from in even 100 years, it is pretty darn skippy.

#5 Growled

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 23:57

You may be right, Skin. I know people who went to the doctor with something a wee bit odd and they say it's like the doctor doesn't even listen to you. I guess he figures it must be something common. First mistake. Never assume anything. These people I know had to be very persistent to finally get the help they needed.

#6 farmeunit

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 00:12

This is what irks me about modern health care. They could do so much more to properly diagnose patients, so many technologies and tests that they could administer. But whether due to a lack of time or resources (a la money), they stick to the most basic of diagnosis and resort to a process of trial and error, e.g. "here are some pills, call me in a week." By doing a more thorough diagnosis, they probably could have spared this girls life.


They make everything so expensive with tests and medications. People just can't afford it. If the insurance companies allowed all those tests, then no one could afford that. There needs to be some kind of reform. I don't know what the answer is, but I can tell you what's not working.

#7 chrisj1968

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 00:51

health care should be preventive rather than reactive.

#8 StevenJ

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 01:08

"modern healthcare" as if pre-modern healthcare was curing aids?

modern healthcare does what it can. it's administered on a rule based system by irrational actors. to expect perfection from imperfection is insanity.

if you know anything about medicine, you'd know that anything can cause anything. there is a limitless amount of possibilities and tests that could be ran which is just unfeasible.