A Series of Questionable Decisions Made Affecting Our Son’s Care.

The day began with my wife Jeri and me holding hands protectively over the inert body of Trey, our six-year-old son. Machines were keeping him alive. We had constantly whispered to him. “You are strong. We love you and are so proud of you. You will feel great when you wake up.” His teddy bear stood watch at his side.

“What are you going to do?” we had learned to ask the nurses.

There had been  It had been twenty-four hours since the surgery to save his life. He had a huge abscess in this neck that had begun as a simple strep throat. I had waited too long to take him to a doctor and now my son might die. As a third-year medical student now, it was my daily job to check X-rays after intubations to make sure the tube was in the right place. If it were placed too far down, it would go into the right main bronchial airway. It would deny air to the left lung, which would collapse on itself. The morning after Trey’s surgery, I went to look at his chest X-ray and was astounded to see the tube was indeed in the right main airway. No one had checked following the surgery. It appeared, to my inexperienced eyes, that the left lung had collapsed. I asked the radiologist on call to look, and he uttered, “Oh my God.” He called up to the pediatric ICU and spoke with the nurse, who called the doctor on call. That resulted in a quick response to pull the tube partially back out until breath sounds could be heard on both sides. Another X-ray was ordered, and a series of orders were written to increase the respirator pressure PEEP (Positive End Expiratory Pressure) and add bronchial dilating medicines to the routine every two hours.

A quick explanation and a quiet apology were given. We were not happy.

We resumed our watch and noted his heart rate was increasing, but I could hear breath sounds on both sides now with a stethoscope I borrowed from a nurse. The left side was faint. I watched the overhead monitor in our private room, and the heart rate had climbed to 200. It was due to the albuterol – asthma inhaler – they were giving him regularly. At midnight, the nurse came in and began to give another dose of albuterol. I requested her to stop.

“His heart rate is too high to give that medicine now,” I stated with certainty. “Please don’t give it.” Jeri nodded in support.

“These are the doctor’s orders for tonight. What do you want me to do? Wake up the doctor?” she queried in an irritated tone of disbelief.

“Yes, please, ma’am, I wish the doctor would come see my son.”