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Daughter faces lifelong health issues due to the carelessness of her medical providers


My 14-month old daughter (with an ongoing brain condition but in great health) was admitted to a Seattle children’s hospital on 11/10/2005 for implantation of a shunt. An infection occurred as a result of the surgery and she was readmitted on Thanksgiving, 11/24/05. She had subsequent new and overlapping infections. We made dozens of complaints – all of which were validated by hospital management – regarding medical staff failing to follow basic hygiene and infection control procedures. We had someone in the room 24/7 with her monitoring the staff and had to continually correct egregious violations of basic infection control procedure even though she was in a "glove and gown" room. We were viewed as "troublemakers" at the hospital because we were so vocal about her care.

After insisting on the glove and gown environment, which the hospital insisted was unnecessary and unrelated to Hunter’s infections, she got no more infections. I had to override medical opinion a few more times and each time I was correct. I started requiring mandatory pre-surgery meetings of the entire surgical and pre/post teams – something I was told I was not authorized to do and told that no one would show up. Every single doctor and nurse involved attended those meetings. We “graded” nurses A, B, and C based on their diligence and performance and indicated we would only accept “A” nurses on surgery and critical days and only “B” nurses on non-critical days. “C” nurses were banned and I gave all nurses the option of not working with our family if they didn’t want to. Every “A” nurse specifically requested to be on our case.

At one point the hospital tried to retaliate by restricting our access to Hunter after a surgery because we were scrutinizing procedures so closely. They refused to let us see her for 3 hours after her leaving surgery. I filed a child abduction charge with the Seattle Police Department which was accepted and investigated. A complaint was filed with the State health department which was also accepted and investigated. At that point the hospital started changing their attitude, when teams of detectives and investigators descended on them.

Hunter was finally released after nearly two months in the hospital. Over three years later, she still has not started eating again. It’s likely that some peripheral damage was done to her brain during the 8 brain surgeries in which shunts were inserted, removed, and inserted again. In addition to being tube-fed at age 4-1/2, she has chronic gagging and vomiting issues. All of these are related to the part of the brain that governs swallowing, among other things, which was fine until the surgeries and infections occurred.

Hunter already had a rough start to life due to her premature birth (25 weeks) due to a medical error by a nurse — there mysteriously is no record of the procedure or the nurse being on her case that night. Now she has another layer of lifelong issues due to the carelessness of her medical providers. “First, do no harm” indeed.

For more information about this story, visit Written by Fred Whittlesey.