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Yellowknife man dies after infection ‘not taken seriously’

A funeral will be held Thursday for a Yellowknife man after his family says local health officials missed two opportunities to diagnose a bacterial infection.

Michael Francois, who was 33 years old, died in an Edmonton hospital on Saturday night after being kept alive by machines for nearly two weeks.

On two occasions in late October, Francois sought the advice of medical experts in Yellowknife for a bad cough – once going to Stanton’s emergency department and later to a local health clinic.

On both occasions, Francois’ sister – Helen Minoza – says he was sent home.

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On October 29, Minoza says his condition deteriorated even more, prompting another sister to take him to the emergency department once again.

“It started with a bad cough so he went to the emergency a week prior to him being medevaced, but he was turned away by the triage nurse,” said Minoza.

“Not realizing that it was serious, he went home and rested. He went to see another doctor two days later but I don’t think he was given a viral swab, he was just given an inhaler.

“Four days later [on October 29] he was very lethargic, he couldn’t walk. So my sister took him to emergency where he was admitted right away and they prepped him for medevac the following day.”

Upon arriving at the University of Alberta Hospital, Francois was treated for a streptococcus pneumoniae infection. Minoza says doctors there were surprised he didn’t receive treatment sooner.

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“They were disappointed and shocked that he didn’t receive any medical care [in Yellowknife],” she said.

“They did indicate, on the day he was medevaced, that Michael was the sickest person in Canada at that point.

“The U of A staff treated him with dignity and respect and they did what they could to make him comfortable.

“We were really impressed by their hospitality and care for my brother and we feel like he did not receive that same type of treatment here in Yellowknife.

“It’s really sad that he wasn’t taken seriously.”

Between October 29 and this past Saturday, Minoza says the infection spread through his bloodstream, shutting down his lungs, liver and kidneys.

Francois was alert but couldn’t talk to anyone because a respirator was inserted in his throat.

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His family was hopeful he’d make a recovery since his heart was still functioning and some of his other organs showed signs of recovery mere days before his death.

“Just over the course of the weekend his heart started to work again and his organs were slowly working so we thought that he was going to recover.

“We were hopeful enough that we were ready to go home. But on the day we planned to leave his condition turned for the worse.

“On Saturday evening he succumbed to his illness and passed away.”

Minoza says she doesn’t understand why her brother didn’t receive treatment prior to being medevaced, adding that what happened has left her shaken.

She spoke to Moose FM about how she’ll remember her brother.

“He was a really shy person that got along with everyone. He was also very humble and free-spirited,” she said.

“He had seven sisters so he was the only boy and the youngest child. Whenever he saw his sisters he would always give us a big bearhug and tell us he loved us.”

Francois leaves behind two sons, aged eight and 10.

An online fund has been set up to help family members cover travel costs during his stay in hospital. A funeral service will be held at Yellowknife’s St Patrick’s Church starting at 1pm Thursday.

Citing patient confidentiality, the territorial health department said it could not comment on any aspect of the case, nor the possibility of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Francois’s death.

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