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Teenager Alina Sarag died from TB but was told she had bulimia and ‘mental health problems'

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Tragedy: Schoolgirl Alina Sarag died in January from TB but was told she was suffering from mental health issues
Tragedy: Schoolgirl Alina Sarag died in January from TB but was told she was suffering from mental health issues

A 15-year-old schoolgirl who died of tuberculosis was told her physical deterioration was due to mental health problems, despite having previously been treated for the disease.

Alina Sarag passed away in January, after visiting a string of health professionals who advised her that she may have bulimia and needed to see a psychiatrist or a spiritual healer to deal with it.

This left her broken-hearted, her father, Sultan Sarag, told Birmingham Coroner’s Court.

Giving evidence at the inquest, which is expected to hear from around 20 witnesses, Mr Sarag said Alina became unwell after she returned from a holiday to Pakistan in August 2010.

Detailing his and his daughter's efforts to find out what was wrong with her in the ensuing weeks and months, Mr Sarag described the diagnosis of possible mental health problems as "absolute nonsense".

Alina, from Sparkbrook, Birmingham, was treated at four different hospitals in the West Midlands between August and October of 2010 as she lost weight and suffered from repeated vomiting.

In a statement read to the court by Coroner Aidan Cotter, Mr Sarag confirmed that his daughter had been treated for TB after being diagnosed with the disease in March 2009 during screening at her school.

The 15-year-old appeared to recover from the condition and was discharged from a chest clinic in October 2009 after telling medics she felt fine, and her family assumed her life would get back to normal.

But the normally "outgoing and bubbly" teenager went to see a GP on August 20 2010, just six days after she had returned from Pakistan.

A series of visits to hospitals, health centres and the doctors' surgery then took place as Alina's health became progressively worse.

Mr Sarag, who also gave verbal evidence to the coroner, told the court: "I was watching my daughter get slowly worse and worse each day.

"I would spend hours rubbing her back, arms, head and neck to try and help ease her pain."

During a visit to Birmingham Children's Hospital in October 2010, the inquest heard, Alina was barely able to walk and Mr Sarag told staff he was worried that her TB had "reactivated".

Mr Sarag added: "I knew something was not right as she was in such a poor state but couldn't get anyone to listen to me.

"I know she felt like no-one was listening to her."

Towards the end of October, Alina returned to her GP's surgery and was told that she may have bulimia and would need to see a psychiatrist, the inquest heard.

"It totally broke her heart," Mr Sarag said of the diagnosis. "No-one bothered listening to us.

"I remember specifically asking for another TB test for Alina to make sure it was not the cause of her illness."

The inquest heard that Alina died on January 6 last year, having been admitted to Birmingham Children's Hospital the previous evening.

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