Post-Tonsillectomy Complications Led to Child’s Brain Injury, Jury Awards $1.2 Million Award
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on July 28th, 2012
With their 11-month-old son regularly having breathing problems while he slept, his parents took him to a doctor for help. After a detailed sleep study to learn what was ailing the baby, the doctor then recommended and performed surgery to remove the baby’s tonsils and adenoids.
Following the surgery, however, the infant stopped breathing while recovering in the pediatric unit at Harrisburg Hospital. The lack of oxygen that followed caused an anoxic brain injury, and the family was awarded $1.2 million in damages by a Dauphin County jury, according to a recent story in The Legal Intelligencer. The boy is now five years old.
The original sleep study done on the then 11-month-old boy showed that he was prone to sleep apnea, a chronic disorder in which the patient repeatedly stops breathing for brief periods of time during rest. In fact the sleep study confirmed that the baby’s sleep apnea “score” of 43 was four times higher than what’s considered to be severe based on an Apnea Hypopnea Index, according to The Legal Intelligencer story.
Yet despite those tendencies, which put the child at an increased risk for similar breathing problems after the surgery, the doctor didn’t ask the pediatric nursing staff at the hospital to monitor the baby’s breathing and overall condition on a more frequent basis while the child after the operation, the story said. Instead, the nursing staff checked the baby only once every four hours, checking on him like they would for any other patient.
In their case, the family argued that the doctor “failed to tell nurses caring for the baby about, and how to care for, the boy’s enhanced risk for respiratory failure,” the story reported.
Early in the morning after the surgery was performed, the infant stopped breathing “and his brain was without oxygen long enough to cause demonstrable injury on an MRI,” according to the story.
The resulting injuries changed the life of the baby and the lives of his closet family members.
“Immediately prior to his surgery, [the child] was a normal child, who could say mama, eat finger foods, and was just on the verge of walking,” the story reported. “After his code, [he] was like a newborn. He could not lift his head or sit up. He could not talk. He could not move.”
Tragically, these kinds of medical disasters can and do occur, drastically affecting the lives of victims and their families.
Brain injuries caused by a lack of oxygen can be hypoxic or anoxic, according to CareGiver.org. Hypoxic refers to a partial lack of oxygen, while anoxic means a total lack of oxygen, according to CareGiver.org. And because the human brain needs a constant source of oxygen to function normally, a lack of oxygen for any amount of time can lead to severe injury or death.
These kinds of injuries can cause catastrophic impacts on the lives of victims and their families that are potentially life-long.
This tragic case is a somber reminder of the kinds of problems that can arise when patients seek medical treatment in hospitals and other medical facilities and become innocent victims of inadequate or incorrect procedures.
Patients and their families must be vigilant about the medical care they receive so they know what is being done for a patient’s care every step of the way. But at the same time, patients and families aren’t doctors and they can’t know every question to ask.
That’s where skilled, expert, compassionate and thorough legal representation is needed by patients and their families who have been harmed by medical errors or omissions during their treatment.
These kinds of cases happen on a regular basis, but they can be fought by legal teams that are prepared to fight for their client’s rights all along the way to a fair settlement or to a just verdict.
We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to help you and your loved ones if you are severely injured in an incident of medical malpractice.
When Winning Matters Most, call MyPhillyLawyer.