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Family of brain damaged girl awarded money from hospital

Most people understand how easy it is to miscommunicate a small piece of information, but aren’t always likely to deal with devastating results from missing a simple word or phrase from another person. This may not be the case with health care professionals in Pennsylvania, who may need to have the ability to strongly communicate orders and direction in order to prevent tragedy. Even the smallest miscommunication can lead to a serious brain injury or even death, a fact that a family of a toddler recovering from a heart transplant found out the hard way.

The young girl in Washington went into cardiac arrest after a miscommunication between her regular doctor and the doctor who took the phone call led her mother to give her Afrin for a respiratory infection. The girl now suffers from brain damage and is only expected to live until she is 22, even after surviving a heart transplant as a newborn.

A judge in the malpractice case recently awarded her family $15 million, although the hospital’s attorney claims their experts do not believe the Afrin was responsible for the event. The girl’s regular doctor advised that she not be given the medicine because of her transplant, while the doctor who answered the phone misunderstood and thought she should be taking it.

Although both parties claim the case was difficult on them, the reality is that she has not spoken since the event due to the damage to her brain from lack of oxygen. The judge felt the hospital was negligent in their communication efforts, and the mother of the girl says the money will go toward paying for her care.

Source: KOMO News, “Judge awards $15M to family of brain-damaged Snoqualmie girl,” Lindsay Cohen, July 12, 2013

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