Family says 13-year-old died after sinus infection spread to his brain
Marquel Brumley and his mother. Courtesy Nicole Alexander
- Marquel Brumley, a 13-year-old Michigan student, died after complications from a sinus infection, according to relatives.
- Brumley first visited an urgent care clinic for cold symptoms, but was initially advised to let the illness run its course, his aunt told INSIDER.
- Later, headaches brought him to the emergency room and doctors discovered that the infection had moved to his brain.
- A doctor told INSIDER that in most cases, sinus infections clear up on their own, but in rare cases they can spread into the head and cause serious complications.
- He said you should see a doctor if sinus or cold symptoms continue for more than 10 days, if they get worse after five to seven days, or if they're severe.
A Michigan middle school student has died after a sinus infection turned deadly, his relatives say. Now, the family is raising funds to pay for the 13-year-old's funeral.
Marquel Brumley first visited an urgent care clinic a few weeks ago complaining of cold symptoms, Brumley's aunt, Nicole Alexander, explained to INSIDER. He was told he had viral infection and was advised to let the illness run its course.
But a week later, Brumley developed searing headaches that brought him to the ER multiple times, People reported. Doctors thought Brumley was experiencing tension headaches or migraines, Alexander recalled to INSIDER, and he was told to use over-the-counter painkillers.
Then, after a severe headache last week, doctors examined Brumley's brain with an MRI scan. They discovered that he had a bacterial sinus infection, according to Alexander, and that it had spread to his brain.
"An MRI revealed that the infection was in his brain and had caused blood clots that resulted in multiple strokes," Brumley's relative Peggy Gilbert wrote on the GoFundMe page, which is now raising money for Brumley's funeral. "They transferred him to Ann Arbor quickly where he was rushed into surgery."
But the intervention came too late.
An MRI of Brumley's brain (not pictured) revealed the spread of the infection.
"They were treating the infection and the blood clots, but we just didn't have enough time for everything to work before the pressure was too much," Alexander told People. He died on Sunday, and according to an update shared on the family's GoFundMe page, his organs were donated to seven people.
As of this writing, donors have raised more than ,000 for Brumley's funeral costs, exceeding the ,000 goal.
"We feel like he was a child who loved to help people [and] his organ donation saved seven lives," Alexander told INSIDER. "Now awareness is coming to so many people across the world, and knowing that sharing his story with so many could possibly save many lives has amazed us and overwhelmed us."
Serious complications from sinus infections are rare — but Brumley's story is a sobering reminder that it's smart to keep track of symptoms.
Sinus infections can feel miserable but usually go away on their own.
A sinus infection occurs when bacteria or viruses infect sinuses, the air-filled pockets in the bones of your face and skull. The infection causes symptoms like headaches, facial pain and pressure, congestion, fever, and fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The good news is that the majority of bacterial and viral sinus infections will go away on their own, Dr. Malcolm Thaler, of New York City's One Medical, explained to INSIDER.
"The vast majority of upper respiratory infections that affect the sinuses are viral [...] The body will clear them and you'll be miserable for a number of days but you'll be fine," he said. "Some of them do get secondary infections with bacteria, but even with those, you don't necessarily have to treat them with antibiotics. A lot of them clear on their own."
But there are cases where antibiotics are required to treat a sinus infection and prevent it from spreading or affecting the brain — a complication that is possible but "incredibly rare," Thaler said.
How do you know when it's time to see a doctor about antibiotics?
See a doctor for symptoms that are persistent or severe. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
"For the average person, if you get cold-like symptoms — cough, face pressure, dental pain, fatigue, maybe a low-grade fever, congestion, nasal discharge — and the symptoms persist 10 days or more without getting better, think about antibiotics," Thaler said. (That's the official guideline from the CDC, by the way.)
He added that there are two other scenarios that would indicate seeing a doctor for antibiotics: If your symptoms getworseafter five to seven days, or if you have extremely bad symptoms after just a few days — think pus-like nasal discharge and severe facial pain.
Finally, watch for symptoms that would indicate a sinus infection has spread to the head and may require emergency treatment.
"If an eye is bulging, they can't move their eyes, or it hurts to move their eyes, or their mental status is compromised, or if the headache is off the charts and it's so bad you're thinking it might even be meningitis — that kind of thing, that's an emergency," Thaler said.
The most important takeaway: Serious complications are rare, and most people's sinus infections go away without treatment. But it's still smart to track persistent or severe symptoms.
Video: 13 Year Old Boy Dies Due to Sinus Infection That Spread To His Brain
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