boy dies on operating table after emergency room errors part 2

Our last post discussed the first of several emergency room errors that led to the death of a 14-year-old boy. When the boy checked into the emergency room, he complained of extreme pain on the right side of his face and in his shoulder, and he reported that his mother kicked him in the throat.

Regardless, a triage nurse said his case was “non-urgent,” and another nurse stated that the boy showed no physical pain or discomfort, even after the boy vomited in front of her. Hours later, the boy died from this and a string of subsequent emergency room errors.

When the boy eventually met with a physician, the physician noticed a swelling in the boy’s neck. However, he also reported that the boy’s vital signs were stable, and the only sign of discomfort was a small hemorrhage in his eye. The physician later testified that he was baffled by the lack of bruising on the boy’s neck, and that he believed the boy was not in extreme pain.

A short time later, the physician made a different diagnosis, and he ordered an X-ray to determine whether the boy’s airway was obstructed by the swelling in his neck. The boy vomited again, but the physician still said that the boy was stable and looked “relatively comfortable.”

A head and neck surgeon was called, and the boy received two shots of Morphine to ease his pain. Even when the boy’s heart rate began to rise, the physician said the boy was stable. The first physician said she did not have the necessary experience to perform the surgery, and another more specialized surgeon was called. However, that surgeon “did not come to the hospital or return several calls placed by doctors in the emergency room in the next hour.”

When the physician’s shift was over, he explained the situation to the doctor who would be taking over. Read more in our next post to learn what happened when the surgeons finally arrived for the operation. Sadly, it was only more pain for the boy.

Source: Cliffview Pilot, “Court upholds $2.4 million malpractice award in death of Bergen boy kicked by mom,” Jerry Demarco, Nov. 17, 2011

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