Pa. ambulance company, hospital sued over baby's death

The parents of the 11-month-old boy allege medical professionals failed to diagnose a condition that led to septic shock

By James Halpin
The Citizens' Voice

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — The family of an 11-month-old boy who died of septic shock caused by an intestinal problem has filed suit against a litany of providers, including Commonwealth Health, Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center and Trans-Med Ambulance, Inc.

The parents of Gunner John Carl Harowicz Hayes allege in the complaint that he died Sept. 2, 2015, after medical professionals failed to diagnose a condition where part of the intestine telescopes into itself in a timely manner.

“Gunner’s injuries, suffering and death were preventable had the defendants ordered and/or performed an abdominal ultrasound in a timely manner,” says the suit, filed this month by attorneys from the Kingston-based law firm Hourigan Kluger & Quinn.

Attorneys for Commonwealth Health and Geisinger have filed notice they intend to fight the allegations and take the case to trial. A spokesman for Trans-Med said he was not aware of the lawsuit and could not immediately comment.

According to the complaint filed on behalf of Gunner’s parents, Rebecca J. Harowicz and Kevin T. Hayes Jr., of 1197 Scott St., Parsons, the child arrived at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital on Sept. 1, 2015, because Gunner was repeatedly vomiting and unable to keep fluids down.

Several hours later, Dr. Ashok Subramanian discharged Gunner with a diagnosis of “vomiting,” with instructions to follow up with the family doctor if the symptoms persisted, the complaint says.

A nurse wrote that Harowicz was “VERY upset that her son (was) being sent home without any real answers as to what is wrong” and that doctors refused to perform further tests she requested because “it is just a virus,” the complaint alleges.

Later the same day, Gunner’s parents brought him to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township to be treated for his continuing symptoms. It took nearly a full day before a Trans-Med ambulance was dispatched to take the boy, who was suffering from abdominal pain, to the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville, according to the complaint.

Although Gunner was “lethargic and cool to the touch,” with lips that were turning blue, the ambulance pulled away from the hospital “without lights and sirens activated,” the complaint says.

Upon arrival at the facility in Danville, Gunner was “agitated and grunting,” with a racing heart beat, according to the complaint.

As medics transferred him from a car seat to a hospital bed, he became unresponsive and flat-lined, the complaint says.

Medics performed chest compressions and Gunner was intubated, but after a brief return his pulse stopped and he was pronounced dead at 11:46 p.m. Sept. 2, 2015, according to the complaint.

Doctors at the hospital attributed his death to “profound septic shock” caused by the intestinal problem.

An autopsy report by Geisinger’s Dr. Syed Jaffar Kazmi noted that Gunner’s intestinal condition is the second most common abdominal emergency for children, next to appendicitis, the complaint says.

“The patient was diagnosed with (the condition) upon admission (to Geisinger Medical Center, Danville) and was treated for that; however he may have (had) it for a few days (and) that caused bowel infarction and (led) to other complications and his death,” the lawsuit quotes Kazmi as writing in the report.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges the providers failed to identify Gunner’s ailment quickly enough, deviating from the acceptable standard of care and leading to his death.

“The failures of the defendants to timely and appropriately evaluate, diagnose, monitor and care for Gunner constitute gross and recklessly indifferent deviations from the standard of care which pertain to healthcare providers and physicians who hold themselves out as skilled and competent providers,” attorneys Joseph A. Quinn Jr., Michelle Quinn and Nicole Santo wrote.

Copyright 2016 The Citizens' Voice

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