On March 3, 2015, the family of a 13-year-old girl who underwent surgery on December 9, 2013 in a California hospital to address her sleep apnea, filed a medical malpractice case seeking compensatory damages for their losses due to the excessive and continuous bleeding suffered by the patient while in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) that led to cardiopulmonary arrest and caused significant brain from which the patient has never awakened. The surgery included removal of the child’s tonsils and adenoids, removal of her soft palate and uvula, and a submucous resection of her bilateral turbinates.
The mother and stepfather (“parents”) and others filed their medical malpractice lawsuit that alleges that the ENT who performed the surgery breached the standard of care by failing to recommend a trial of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine that is commonly attempted before surgery is recommended and performed. The parents also allege that it is common that the tonsils and adenoids be removed before performing the more extensive surgery because their removal often results in a cure of sleep apnea. They also allege in their medical malpractice lawsuit that the ENT who performed the surgery noted that the patient had an asymptomatic congenital abnormality involving her right carotid artery that placed it closer to the surgical site, which posed an increased risk of serious bleeding both during and following the surgery, and that the ENT failed to advise the PICU nurses regarding the abnormality and bleeding risk.
When the parents were first allowed to visit their child in the PICU following the surgery, they were alarmed that she was spitting up blood. They were advised by the nurses that the bleeding was “normal” and they were given a suctioning device and paper towels to control the bleeding. About one hour later, another nurse criticized the parents for suctioning their daughter, stating that the suctioning would remove clots that were important for healing. They stopped the suctioning but their daughter continued to cough up blood.
Later, the nurse who had instructed the parents to suction their daughter criticized them for not performing the suctioning. The nurse then began suctioning the patient.
The parents requested on several occasions that a doctor be called to help their daughter in the PICU, but no doctor arrived at her bedside.
Shortly after midnight, the patient’s blood oxygen level dropped and a Code was called, after which a doctor finally arrived at her bedside. The patient was in cardiopulmonary arrest for over two and a half hours during which time an airway was not timely established and a tracheotomy was not performed. About two liters of blood were pumped from the patient’s lungs during the resuscitation efforts.
The following day, the parents were advised that their daughter had sustained significant brain damage. The next day, the parents were advised that their daughter had been placed on an organ donor list and that life support would be terminated the following morning. The efforts to terminate life support became a major disagreement between the parents and the medical providers. The parents had to obtain a restraining order to prevent termination of life support. Eventually, the child was released into the custody of her parents, who maintain that their child is not brain dead: “She’s still asleep.”
Source: Winkfield, et al. v. Frederick S. Rosen, M.D., et al., Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Alameda.
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