Son’s death turns mom into patient safety advocate (1 of 2)

In November 2000, a healthy 15-year-old South Carolina boy went in for elective surgery to have a congenital heart condition repaired at the Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital in Charleston.

Although elective surgery means that the procedure was not required, the boy and his parents agreed that the benefits outweighed the risks. What they could not predict was that the healthy 15-year-old, who excelled in school and drama, would fall victim to medical malpractice.

After being administered a painkiller with dangerous side effects, the boy suffered a perforated ulcer and internal bleeding. Typically, this is something that can be fixed if discovered in time.

However, even after the boy showed signs that something was terribly wrong and his mother begged for a veteran doctor to evaluate his condition, the weekend staff of nurses and doctors-in-training assured them that everything would be fine. They said the intense abdominal pain the boy was feeling was caused by gas and he needed to move around more.

After the boy turned ghostly white and his temperature and heart rate dropped to dangerous levels, veteran surgeons were finally called in. This was more than 30 hours after the intense abdominal pain began and after the boy’s mother had asked for an experienced doctor numerous times.

Sadly, the boy had suffered a cardiac arrest after the perforated ulcer caused large amounts of blood and digestive fluid to flood into his abdominal cavity. The doctors were unable to save him and he was pronounced dead after the doctors’ attempts at resuscitation were unsuccessful.

In the wake of losing her son, the boy’s mother started the group Mothers Against Medical Error and was able to get patient safety laws passed in South Carolina in her son’s name. She has also worked tirelessly to advise patients on how to protect themselves from medical mistakes and malpractice.

Please check back later this week for some of her powerful advice.

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