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Infant Dies Following Hospital Acquired Infections

My pregnancy was completely normal and everything seemed perfect. Charlee was my husband’s only child and his pride and joy.

Shortly after she was born, we were informed that our daughter’s oxygen levels were low. Tests were done to determine the cause. We learned that she had Down syndrome and a hole in her heart caused by a condition called atrioventricular septal defect.

Charlee needed heart surgery. The cardiologist assured us the type of surgery that she needed was performed often with a very high success rate. He wanted to wait six months before operating, to give my baby time to grow stronger.

Her heart was working hard and it was initially difficult for her to gain weight. But after a feeding tube was inserted, she gained weight like a champ! She spent Thanksgiving and Christmas at home.  We took her to her big brother’s football games and out to watch our friends play softball. Because she had a “compromised immune system” we took standard precautions to prevent infections. For instance, everyone washed and sanitized their hands before touching her. But, by no means, did we live in a bubble.

By late January, Charlee was ready for surgery. It went very well, according to the surgeon, better than he had hoped! He was thrilled with the “miniscule” post-op leakage. We expected our baby to spend a week to 10 days recovering in the hospital. Instead, she suffered from a series of infections following a medical mistake. She died in the hospital 95 days after she was admitted.

At 1 a.m. on the morning following heart surgery, a nurse woke me and directed me to leave Charlee’s hospital room. People were everywhere. I had no idea what was happening. Someone would talk with me in the waiting room, the nurse said. My husband raced to the hospital to be with me. A few hours later, the heart surgeon came out to tell us that the catheter which was inserted into her heart to keep it hydrated had slipped out. My little 12-pound baby now had four extra pounds of fluid putting pressure on her heart and lungs. As a result of the hospital’s mistake, they had to perform CPR. The CPR damaged Charlee’s heart, requiring a second heart surgery, and eventually a third and damaged her lungs permanently.

In the following three weeks, she underwent two additional heart surgeries. Two months later, a complication from an infection required an emergency abdominal surgery. Between the time of her heart surgery and abdominal surgery, Charlee developed at least seven infections. Three different infections were caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae, another was from Serratia marcescens. She also suffered a urinary tract infection, and a yeast infection. Finally, she developed colitis, as the result of a C. diff. infection. We later learned that several babies in her unit also had Klebsiella and C. diff. infections.

The infections severely damaged her colon, which ruptured during a colonoscopy. Half of her colon and part of her small intestines were removed. She did not get enough oxygen during an abdominal surgery, even though she was intubated as a precaution. We learned a few days later that she was in a vegetative state as a result of the lack of oxygen. After the ventilator was turned off, she passed within just a couple of minutes.

We never will understand how this could happen. Our daughter was on her way home several times. At one point when she was doing so well, the hospital moved her to the bed furthest from the nurses’ station. The nurses had me bring her car-seat in and they took her for walks down the hall.

But the infections kept her from coming home, time and time again. The nurses and doctors would say that my daughter’s “immune system” was to blame, until I reminded them that she did not get sick once in the 4 1/2 months we had her at home. I have two boys in the home and pets. We live a normal life and were able to prevent illness. The hospital will take credit for lives saved. Why won’t they take responsibility for lives lost?