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Lucille M. Burns of Scranton, Pennsylvania


Our mother, Lucille M. Burns, was admitted to a Pennsylvania hospital on October 31, 2007 due to a fall. She was initially misdiagnosed by the ER doctor with a broken hip and treated with morphine. Later the same day, upon review with her orthopedic surgeon, the diagnosis was changed to a “hip contusion”, with no evidence of a fracture.

She was in the hospital recovering from her fall and receiving physical therapy at the same hospital. She was doing well and fulfilling all of her physical therapy requirements and was given a discharge date of November 30, 2007.

On November 22, 2007 she was rushed to the ER of a Pennsylvania hospital where she was diagnosed with a severe bacterial infection caused by Clostridium Difficile. She had been exhibiting symptoms of this infection for several days prior, which was left untreated. Her symptoms included persistent diarrhea, a high fever and abnormally high white blood cell count. After being diagnosed with this infection it was suggested that she undergo emergency surgery to remove the “infected and diseased” parts of her colon. It was explained to us that it was her only chance of survival. She underwent surgery the next morning. Unfortunately, the surgery was not successful in controlling the spread of the infection, as that it had infected other parts of her body. Sadly, she died from this infection the early morning of November 24, 2007.

Later it was made known to us by her Primary Physician that another patient was hospitalized, diagnosed and died with the same deadly infection at the same hospital. This patient was hospitalized during the same time frame as my mother. The doctor said that my mother was definitely introduced to this “deadly bacteria” during her stay at the hospital and that they planned on doing their own investigation as to the circumstances of my Mother’s death. He said that I could contact him about a month following to hear of the results. I contacted him a month later as planned. During my conversation with him, he told me that the woman that had died prior to my Mom was on the same floor as my Mother, the sixth floor, and that the hospital had changed their infection control practices.

Our family believes that the hospital was negligent in providing adequate infection control practices, considering it just had had a recent death with a deadly contagious bacterial infection. Also, since the same hospital had just experienced a death from this infection, what infection control practices did they put into place to protect the rest of the patients, visitors and staff of the hospital? Also, since the other patient had just died recently from the same thing, the medical personnel should have recognized the symptoms sooner and thus reacted sooner to my Mother’s symptoms, which could have resulted in my Mother’s life being saved. We believe that the hospital is responsible for not controlling the spread of a deadly infection and in not recognizing and treating the symptoms sooner.

Written by Patricia Burns of Albuquerque, NM, daughter of Lucille.

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