A 16-year-old girl from Australia almost died from a brain infection after a hospital refused to believe she was critically ill and told her she must be pregnant.

After being sent home with what doctors thought was a urinary infection, Kate Newton was rushed back to the hospital several days later where she suffered a heart attack. Shortly after being resuscitated, neurosurgeons had to drill a hole into the teen's skull to release pressure on her brain.

"When you have headaches, the first thing you think of is your head," Kate said. "But they tried to tell me I was pregnant, then sent me home with a urine infection. If they had admitted me they would have found what I had, but they didn't want to scan me."

The ordeal started on June 3 when Kate's mother took her to the hospital with agonizing headaches. The teen was told she must be pregnant, despite her denials.

A test revealed a urinary infection. She was given intravenous fluids and sent home with antibiotics. Two days later, Kate returned to hospital and was diagnosed with vertigo. Requests for brain scans were again refused.

On June 9 she was unable to get out of bed, balance or tolerate light. Her mother, Anne Newton, called the Royal Children's Hospital and was told to call an ambulance immediately.

A brain scan revealed Kate was at serious risk.

"It was horrible," Newton said. "Her sister Ashley rode with her in the ambulance, and saw her die. Then the neurosurgeon said, 'I have minutes to get her to surgery to save her life.’ Even after the first lot of surgery, they weren't confident that she would survive."

Kate still suffers from short-term memory loss and dizzy spells, and does not have full feeling back in her body.

A Southern Health spokesman said he believed the symptoms Kate first presented with had later changed, and that her care had been appropriate.

Officials are now investigating.

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