UNM's Neal survives hellish health scare

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Janet Neal's instincts from her nursing school classes, nearly two decades earlier, made her look closely at her son's discharge papers and medication after a simple diagnosis of gastroenteritis by a Sydney hospital doctor.

She knew something didn't seem right. The blood count results were not at a normal level, and her son Cullen's face told her things weren't well. The look was one only a mother or father knows. Cullen was scared. He was in pain. He didn't want to leave the hospital. He was convinced this was serious, much more so than any physician was noticing.

"I told [my mother] that I wasn't OK," Cullen said. "I couldn't get up."

So Janet grabbed the nearest nurse, a man standing nearby. She demanded someone take a closer look at the results. An ER doctor came to their aid and administered what should have probably been done a lot sooner -- an ultrasound.

No one wasted any time once the picture popped up on the screen. Cullen Neal's appendix had ruptured. An infection was spreading throughout his abdomen. His spleen and liver were being compromised.

"That's when they rushed," said Janet of the staff at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

To read the rest of Andy Katz's story, click here.