Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Doctors leave surgical needle in baby’s chest

Published:Sunday | August 2, 2015 | 8:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Nicola Irving and her daughter, Chardonnay Taylor.
Nicola Irving highlights the scars on the chest of her six-year-old daughter Chardonnay Taylor.
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When doctors from two local hospitals performed heart surgery on five-month-old Chardonnay Taylor in 2009, someone left the suture needle behind and failed to properly close the opening in her chest.

Today, Chardonnay is six years old and, despite her mother's best efforts, neither the doctors from the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) nor the Bustamante Hospital for Children (BHC) who operated on her have made any effort to remove the needle or complete her surgery.

Nicola Irving said her daughter was born at UHWI in 2009 and she was informed shortly after that she has Down's syndrome, patent ductus arteriosus and atrioventricular canal defect (hole in the heart).

A few weeks after, doctors there attempted a surgery to close her patent ductus arteriosus, which essentially is the opening between two major blood vessels leading from the heart. This procedure was, however, unsuccessful and Chardonnay was referred to the BHC.

A follow-up surgery was undertaken at the children's hospital later that month and saw a medical team from that hospital collaborating with a group of surgeons from overseas to correct her heart defects. While the hole in her heart was corrected, an X-ray that was done post-surgery showed that a needle was left behind in her chest.

 

DANGEROUS TO REMOVE

 

"When I ask them about the needle, they said that they won't go back in to try to remove the needle because it is very dangerous. I ask them what will happen in the long run and they said that it's a slim chance the needle will move," said Irving.

The mother said she expressed concerns about the possible effect the needle might have on her child in the future, and asked for a letter outlining what the doctors had stated to her. However, she said the doctors refused this request.

"At one point I got so frustrated, I went to a lawyer to talk about it, and when they found out that I went ahead with a lawyer and all these things, I started to get attitude from the doctors," said Irving, who claims she is still getting the cold shoulder from the medical practitioners whenever she takes her daughter for treatment.

In 2013, her lawyer ordered an independent medical report from a general thoracic and vascular surgeon. A computerised axial tomography (CAT) scan and X-ray, which were done at the time, confirmed that a needle was in Chardonnay's chest.

It also showed that two scars were in the centre of her sternum about 10 inches long, which had not healed properly and had separated from her bone, although her skin is intact.

"I was constantly telling the doctors that her chest has a lump and they say that as the child grows, it will go down. But as she develops, it is coming up, it is not going anywhere, it's just making a mountain in her stomach, only to find out that she has to have the surgery done," the mother said.

Irving said she is worried about her daughter as she has regular chest infections.

"Sometimes she will cry and hold it and sometimes it looks like it's swollen. Because she has speech delay, because she has Down's syndrome, I don't know for sure whether it's hurting or she is feeling any pain. I don't know. Sometimes she will say 'mommy' and she will hold it," said Irvin.

"She is my only child, so I am stressed out. It doesn't feel good," said the frustrated mother.

Irving does not know what next to do and fears for the life of her daughter who is already struggling as a special-needs child.

"It is hard just to think about it, and think that you don't have the help and you are not getting any assistance from who you are supposed to get it from," the mother said.

"Just thinking about it and what can happen, it makes me stress. I cry, I pray, I don't know what else to do," she said.

When contacted, Dr Trevor McCartney, who was the chief executive officer at UHWI at the time when the surgery was performed, said that he does not recall Irving's case, but he would make some checks. The Sunday Gleaner was, however, unable to make contact with the chief executive officer of the BHC, Anthony Wood, as we were told he was not in office.