Up to $23 million for an inaccurate Hospital laboratory report causing a missed diagnosis of bacterial meningitis in baby. Girl, almost a teenager, suffers from severe disabilities

Previously healthy 3 month old sustained permanent brain damage after an Ontario Regional Hospital’s laboratory failed to report abnormal blood test results showing that she had a severe bacterial infection. She now suffers from severe, permanent disabilities.

A previously healthy 3 month old developed irritability, vomiting, and fever over the course of a weekend family get-together. Mom and Dad took Baby to an urgent care clinic in the Barrie area, and the doctor there prescribed medicine for the fever and cold symptoms and sent Baby home. He instructed Mom and Dad to keep an eye on Baby and follow-up in 3 days if there was no improvement in her condition.

Mom and Dad followed the doctor’s instructions. By the third day, Baby’s condition worsened, and she developed a rash. Mom contacted Telehealth Ontario for advice, and spoke with a nurse who told her that the rash was ‘roseola’ and told her to continue monitoring baby’s condition. Mom then called her family doctor’s office, and was told that the doctor was fully booked and he would be unable to see the Baby until four days later. Mom was not prepared to wait this long and decided to take Baby to a walk-in clinic the following morning.

Baby’s condition continued to deteriorate that night, and her parents brought her to the hospital Emergency Department, with a very high temperature of 39.70C.

She was triaged as an “Emergency” and was immediately brought to an isolation room. Her heart rate was very high- 200 beats per minute.

By chance, the emergency room doctor that night was the same doctor who had seen the baby at the urgent care clinic a few days earlier. He did a physical examination of the baby and was concerned about her condition. He ordered a “septic workup” (which is an investigation designed to determine whether the patient has an infection). This consists of a Complete Blood Count (a laboratory blood test), chest x-ray, analysis of the urine, and blood cultures.

He then left the room, expecting that the Nurse would carry out his orders and that she would monitor and assess the baby according to accepted nursing guidelines. Over the course of baby’s hospital stay, the Nurse failed to properly monitor, document and report Baby’s condition.

Baby’s blood samples were collected and brought to the hospital laboratory as a STAT order, meaning it had to be done immediately. A laboratory technologist inserted the blood samples into a Hematology analyzer. The blood analyzer detected several irregularities and alerted the technologist by ‘flagging’ the abnormal results. At the time, Baby’s blood cells demonstrated very significant abnormalities, indicating ongoing active bacterial infection.

The technologist followed-up by manually reviewing the blood sample under a microscope and sent her findings to the ER. In her report, she failed to record and report the significant abnormalities which indicated serious bacterial infection. She also failed to forward the crucial results which had been flagged by the analyzer.

On the basis of this erroneous report, the baby was discharged home.

At home, Baby’s condition deteriorated further. Mom and dad brought her back to the ER. Unfortunately, by this time it was too late. The infection had spread from her bloodstream to her cerebral spinal fluid and into the tissue surrounding her brain, a condition called meningitis. Baby required evacuation by air ambulance to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto where she stayed for almost 2 months.

Baby was left with severe, permanent brain damage. She suffers from a severe learning disability, a seizure disorder, quadriplegia, endocrinological problems, cortical blindness, cognitive delay and deficits, communication deficits, diabetes insipidus, secondary hypopituitarism, is G-tube fed, scoliosis. She is frequently hospitalized for intercurrent illnesses. She is confined to a wheelchair and requires 24 hour assistance with every aspect of daily living.

Sommers Roth & Elmaleh Professional Corporation has over 40 years of experience in medical malpractice litigation in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Ontario, and across Canada.

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