In the conference room, Grant gives a brief explanation of the case I’m to review:
“According to the ER record, the parents reported their three-year old wasn’t interested in eating for a couple of days and when he stopped drinking fluids too they became concerned, bringing him to the hospital’s ER. A temperature of 102.5 was recorded, but otherwise his vital signs were normal, with a slightly elevated pulse. Concern for dehydration led the ER staff to draw blood tests, and start an IV. They decided to admit the boy to the pediatric unit for IV fluids, antibiotics, and observation overnight.
He arrived on the pediatric unit at 10:30 pm. According to the nurse’s admission note, he was lethargic. He received a dose of IV antibiotic within an hour of his arrival. After that, the order of events is vague. His mother noticed a rash on the boy’s chest and arms during the antibiotic infusion. The nurse called the attending pediatrician, who was at home, and reported the rash. The boy received a dose of IV diphenhydramine, and steroid to treat the rash assumed to be an allergic reaction to the antibiotic. The boy fell asleep.
The next entry in the nurse’s note records that an hour later she was called to the room by the boy’s parents. The rash had spread over his entire body. They were unable to rouse him.
The nurse documented a blood pressure of 67/45, a pulse of 50, and respirations of 10. She called a code, and the boy was intubated in the room. Resuscitation attempts followed. The attending pediatrician was summoned from home. He arrived half an hour later. Unfortunately, the resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful, and the child died.
Later, the results of the blood tests drawn in the ER revealed a severe bacterial infection, which was the cause of the rash, not an allergy to the antibiotic. The parents are suing the hospital and the attending pediatrician for wrongful death. Our client, the attending pediatrician, maintains that he is not at fault because the nurse failed to report the results of the blood tests, and how sick the child actually was. Therefore, the responsibility for the boy’s death rests on the nurse, and as her employer, the hospital.
What I need you to do, Niki, is review the chart, and find indications that the pediatric nurse neglected or did not follow standard practice in her care of this child; anything pointing to our client’s innocence.”
“Wow. Okay Grant. I’ll read through the record, and see what I can find.”
“Thanks Niki. If you need anything, let Claudine know. I’ll see in you in a couple hours. Raquel and I are looking forward to having you stay with us the next couple of days.”
“Me too. Thanks for inviting me, Grant.”
After Grant leaves the room, I settle into the leather chair at the large, polished table of the conference room, a hard copy of the medical record lying on it. Leafing through its pages, I feel queasy at the realization that whatever I find wrong will be used to blame another nurse. I dismiss the thought, however.
“I am a patient advocate,” I remind myself. “By reviewing the medical record, I’m helping a family receive justice.”