Tim Fehring waves goodbye to parents before dying on school trip to Europe
Tim texted his mother that he was ‘dizzy’ all the time and hadn’t slept in hours
Days before he died on a school trip to Europe, a fit and healthy teenage boy who teachers thought was suffering from homesickness texted his mother.
Timothy Fehring, 15, told her he hadn’t slept ‘in hours’ and was ‘always feeling dizzy’ since flying into Europe from his home city of Melbourne.
The Blackburn High School student had unknowingly developed an infection in his blood and lungs that turned into sepsis, which killed him six days after he landed.
Some of Tim’s final messages to his family on that fateful trip can now be revealed, as the coroner and loved ones push for major changes to school excursion policies – including a better staff-to-student ratio.
Over the course of six days of the trip, Tim lost 5kg, threw up repeatedly in roadside bins and struggled to walk.
However, two teachers accompanying 16 students on the holiday believed he was simply suffering from home sickness, rather than being seriously ill.
Now his family have released messages showing Tim informed his mother, Barbara, not long after arriving in Berlin on June 23 that he was feeling unwell.
His condition was initially chalked up to the spicy food he was given to eat on the Thai Airlines flight he was on.
‘I almost threw up and am working on getting better so I can have a better time,’ he texted. In his next message Tim said: ‘I’m going to sleep like a baby because it might be exhaustion. ‘I have not slept in hours and I always feel dizzy.
His mother Barbara spoke to one of the teachers and said Tim needed to see a doctor.
He was eventually taken to Munich Children’s Hospital after going on a walking tour where he appeared ‘exhausted, visibly pale and had noticeably lost weight’.
‘(One of the teachers) mentioned to the doctor that Tim was homesick, and the doctor confirmed that his symptoms could be connected to this,’ the coroner’s report said.
Tim was at the hospital for between four and six hours, and the doctor said constipation and homesickness was likely the reason for his vomiting.
The following day the group travelled to Austria and went on another walking tour.
‘Tim walked around carrying a ‘vomit bag’ although he asked not to go at all,’ the coroner’s report said.
‘He had not improved and was walking slowly and looked puffed out and tired. He was pale and had black circles under his eyes.
‘Tim had told the staff that he wanted to go to hospital, but staff considered that he was trying to avoid doing the planned activities such as the afternoon’s walking tour.’
Ms Fehring said she couldn’t understand why Tim wasn’t taken to hospital on June 27, despite telling the teachers he was feeling so terrible.
‘The teachers didn’t know him, they never taught him so they didn’t know that Tim didn’t put things on.’
On the evening of June 27, staff decided Tim would fly home alone as his condition had not improved.
The next day, on June 28, Tim was taken to get a doctor’s certificate to confirm he was able to travel.
While he was there, Tim was not examined or given any tests and the doctor was told to prescribe him anxiety medication at the request of one of the teachers, the coroner’s report said.
The doctor also deemed Tim fit to travel. (Ms Fehring said he was not).
While the teacher was paying for the appointment, Tim walked out of the doctor’s office into the hallway, complaining it was ‘hot and stuffy’ but moments later was found unresponsive on the floor.
Vomit was splattered all over his clothes and his nose was bleeding, the report said.
Tim was given CPR before he was rushed to the Vienna Centre for Social Medicine, Paediatric Intensive Care Unit in an ambulance.
His pupils were at ‘maximum dilation’ at the hospital and a CT scan found severe swelling to the brain, the report said.
Ms Fehring understands Tim had gone into sepsis and when he collapsed onto the floor he went into cardiac arrest.
Tim was unable to be saved. His mother had been on a flight back to Melbourne at the time and was only informed about her son’s death by close friends who’d gone to meet her at the airport when she landed.
Autopsies showed Tim had a highly acute infection in his blood and lungs which may have led to heart failure.