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Lake Country man dies of flesh-eating disease, sparking lawsuit against Northern Health

Josh Wakely’s wife claims he was misdiagnosed 3 times before he died of flesh-eating disease in 2020
Josh Wakely was misdiagnosed with three illnesses at Fort St. John Hospital before dying of flesh-eating disease in March 2020, according to a lawsuit filed by his wife on Feb. 28, 2022. (

A Lake Country widow and mother has filed a lawsuit against the Northern Health Authority and several physicians, claiming her husband’s death two years ago was the result of a series of misdiagnoses.

Britney Stewart claims that during her husband Josh Wakely’s three visits to Fort St. John Hospital, doctors failed to order tests that could have identified the disease that killed him: necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease.

Court documents state that on Feb. 24, 2020, Wakely went to the emergency department with a severe sore throat. A few hours later in the early hours of Feb. 25, he exhibited a swollen tonsil and “an increase of pain that was radiating to the back of his head.” Doctors didn’t swab his throat, conduct a rapid strep test or take blood work. Wakely was diagnosed with tonsillitis and treated with fluids, Tylenol and liquid lidocaine, before being sent home.

The next day, Wakely’s symptoms had worsened and he was having back spasms. He was taken to hospital by ambulance.

“He had taken numerous medications that day including 12 tablets of Robaxacet, seven tablets of Advil, seven tablets of Motrin, and one tablet of Tylenol with codeine but still rated his pain as 10/10,” the claim states.

Wakely was given his second diagnosis, muscle spasm and sacroiliitis, as well as some Tylenol 3 to take home with him.

Wakely’s condition continued to worsen on Feb. 27. He returned to the emergency department with pain, swelling and a loss of sensation on his right side. Morphine did not help his pain. He was given a third diagnosis of hand-arm vibration syndrome, which aligned with his work as a welder. No reference to his previous hospital visits was made, the claim states. Wakely returned home to Lake Country later that evening.

Then on March 1, Wakely was shuttled to Kelowna General Hospital in severe septic shock, where lab work confirmed he had a strep A infection, according to the claim.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare bacterial infection that can be casued by strep A. According to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Infection, an accurate diagnosis, quick antibiotic treatment and prompt surgery are key to stopping the infection, which kills one in three people who have the illness.

Doctors conducted surgery to remove the infected tissue, but Wakely died just before 1:30 p.m. March 2, at age 40, leaving behind his wife and son, who was two years old at the time.

Stewart is suing Northern Health Authority and the four physicians for negligence, seeking payment under the Family Compensation Act.

“It was the responsibility of the defendant doctors to properly diagnose Mr. Wakely and to continue to monitor Mr. Wakely for ongoing symptoms and conduct further investigations and to determine the cause of his symptoms. The defendant doctors knew or ought to have known that failure to take appropriate care in conducting further investigation could result in permanent injury or death to Mr. Wakely,” the claim reads.

Stewart’s claims have not been proven, and the defendants have not yet filed a response in court.

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Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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