(July 14, 2012)
An eleven-year-old from Queens, New York, was sent home from the emergency room at NYU Langone Medical Center after cutting his arm during basketball practice. Unfortunately, he died just four days later of septic shock.
Sepsis is an illness in which the body has a severe response to bacteria or other germs. This response may be called systemic inflammatory response syndrome, or SIRS. Septic shock is a serious condition that occurs when an overwhelming infection leads to life-threatening low blood pressure.
His parents released a statement that said, “Our beloved son was the light of our lives. He should have never died. It is clear to us he did not receive the basic standard of care which would have saved him and which he, as an innocent child, above all, had a right to expect. Our beloved boy is gone but we want to ensure that no other family experiences the utter heartbreak and grief we have because of such substandard care.” They will use Rory’s Law in their lawsuit, which will force the hospital to discuss the results of their son’s blood work before discharge.
The boy cut his arm during basketball practice on Wednesday, March 28th, which was of no urgent need for attention, and was casually brought to his mother’s attention that night. Around bedtime, he had a stomachache, and right around midnight, he woke up with leg pains, and vomited.
He woke up the next morning with a 104-degree fever, and went to his pediatrician. He had trouble walking on his mom, and needed to use his mother as a crutch. He threw up two times while in the doctor’s office. Although the pediatrician didn’t think the cut was anything serious, he recommended the boy go to the emergency room.
The doctor heard the parents’ concern of blotchy skin when pressure was put on the area, but he did not follow up with this concern. Dr. Michael B. Edmond, chairman of the division of infectious diseases at Virginia Commonwealth University, said that these reported symptoms are actually signs of sepsis.
A little after 7 pm that night, he went to the emergency room and was discharged a couple hours later, after being diagnosed with “acute febrile gastritis”, also known as the flu. Tylenol was the only recommendation given.
The next morning, Friday, at 10 am, his parents called the pediatrician, because his skin turned blue around his nose, and the slightest touch of pressure caused an abundance of pain. The pediatrician recommended returning to the emergency room and drinking fluids and eating crackers.
The boy died of severe septic shock in intensive care on April 1. The family stated that “NYU hospital and its Emergency Room were in turn extremely negligent in their treatment of our son. Signs of serious illness were ignored and he was allowed to leave the hospital desperately ill. His pediatrician continued the following day, despite our appeals, to dismiss our concerns. We believe NYU hospital and his pediatrician should acknowledge their negligent treatment of him, treatment that we believe resulted in his death. They owe it to him and the children who will come after him, to ensure that this never happens again.”
Toxic Shock Syndrome, or TSS, is a severe form of sepsis, and is the form of sepsis that ultimately took this child’s life. Co-chair of the STOP Sepsis Collaborative, Dr. Scott Weingart, commented about this child’s death, saying that “this is a very rare circumstance. If your child gets sick a few days after they get a cut, they probably do not have Toxic Shock Syndrome.”
Signs of TSS are confusion, showing a different personality or very sleepy and hard to wake, as well as a bright=red rash all over the body that looks like a sunburn, possibly in greater concentrations around the hands and feet.
Dr. Weingart wanted it to be known that sepsis is normally not life-threatening. “I don’t want a family to hear ‘sepsis’ and think their child is at risk of death… Severe sepsis and septic shock are more worrisome. If your child looks much sicker than you would expect from a simple virus, cold, or flu, you should contact your pediatrician or visit an emergency room.”
It is unfortunate that there is nothing that can be done to bring this child back to his family, but now that news of this story has been shared, hopefully it will teach us all a lesson that we are the best “doctors” when it comes to our children and if they do not seem like their usual selves. If you believe your child is sick, despite a doctor’s positive assurances, you should always get a second opinion. It could end up saving a life.
Feel free to contact one of our Gacovino Lake & Associates attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).