Seeking Malpractice Advice Regarding My 10 Month Old Son

Updated on July 22, 2011
J.C. asks from Wood Dale, IL
16 answers

I need some serious help and advice. I will try to make this short. A few weeks ago, my 10 month old came down with Croup. It was a Wednesday that he really started to feel crummy. I made an appointment and saw the nurse practicioner on Thursday who diagnosed him with Croup and gave him a prescription for a steroid. On Friday, he was even worse. At the advice of a friend, I went back to the doc who in turn sent me over to the ER. They did what I guess is the "normal protocol" for Croup and gave him the steroid shot along with 2 nebulizer treatments. He had a horrible nights sleep that night so I got him up and took him over to a different ER (closer to my house) at 5am. There, his lungs were checked and he was given a "cool mist" treatment. I was then told Croup is a wait and see type thing and to give it time. I was sent home. I came home, fed him and put him down for a nap where he slept a LONG time. I assumed he was just very tired from not sleeping the night before. I kept checking on him and he was in different positions each time so I knew he was alright. I finally said he'd been sleeping long enough and went to get him up. He was blue and barely BARELY gasping for air. 911 was called, mouth to mouth was given and my baby was taken back to the 2nd ER I had him at. He was very ill! His throat was so swollen that they couldn't get a regular sized tube in him to intubate...they had to use a newborn tube. He was then transferred to Lutheran General PICU where he spent 4 days in the PICU, 2 of which he was on a ventilator. THANK GOD everything turned out alright and he is fine and back to his normal self. I feel blessed every day that he got his second chance at life.

What is not sitting well with me is that I was SENT HOME FROM THE 2ND ER!!! They knew I had been at another ER the previous morning. Why didn't they do more? Why didn't they admit him? Why was he only given a lousy cool mist treatment? I had said in the beginning that I don't care about any of this. That I was just glad he was alright. Well, now that I'm thinking about the $5-10 thousand dollars my husband and I will have to pay as our percentage of insurance, I think that this never should have happened.

Just to add....he didn't have good/bad times. Meaning night was not always worse for him. He actually slept very well, but noisey, the first 2 nights. His breathing was heavy ALL day long. He had stridor. He had very few "coughing attacks". Most of it was his struggle to breath. And, as I said, this went on all day. Not just at night or at times he was upset. Yes, I'm sure having him out in the cold before getting to the ER helped open him up a little. But just knowing that he had been in the ER less than 24 hours prior....why didn't they do more? Why didn't they observe him for a couple hours instead of sending me home after an hour and a half? If the steroid and neb treatments didn't show signs of helping, why didn't they do an xray? do another neb treatment?

My I have a case? Should I pursue some kind of lawsuit?

Thanks in advance for your help!

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answers from Chicago on

I am sorry you had to deal with this. I have found ERs in the area to be less than effective.

If you look at, Croup is classified as a wait and see type thing and rarely gets that serious.

That being said, Drs make their judgements based on everything that is presented to them at the time you bring them in. He had already had the nebulizer and the steroids earlier that did not seem to do the job, so they tried something else to see if it would help.

Did you ask them why they were sending him home instead of admitting him?

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answers from Decatur on

I am a Certified Respiratory Therapist and worked in a hospital including pediatrics and ER before my son was born, so I have some experiance with croup. You need know that there is more than one kind of croup. 1 kind makes kids cough a really nasty cough for a few days or a week. The other kind makes kids throats swell(and possiblly close). The thing is it is difficult or impossible to tell which type a kid has or how bad it will be unless the throat swells badly. This said, did they take an x-ray of your sons throat at either ER? A throat x-ray can often tell which type of croup is going on if the swelling is notable enough. You mentioned he had stridor. Did he have that in the ER? If a Dr. or Nurse heard that, they should not have sent you home unless he had stopped making the noises. With that said, considering the type of croup your son seems to have had, even if they had kept him overnight for observation, it is still likely that he would have ended up in a PICU with breathing tube down his throat beacause croup generally has to run its course. That is the biggest reason why I am not sure that you have a case here. I hope I have been a help and as the Mommy of a 13 mo boy, hope you stay in good health.

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answers from Chicago on

While I am sympathetic to you, I really don't think you should be looking at a law suit. Medicine is rarely an exact science. (although it would be nice if it was). The reason our insurance costs continue to get higher is because of lawsuits. Thank God your son is now fine. From what most says croup is a wait and see so they really would have had no indication if it was tridor.

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answers from Chicago on

1st i'm so glad to hear your son is doing better their is nothing worse that your baby sick and no one can help.. My son at 3 wk old was sick and I couldn't get anyone to believe me they told me I was a tired new mommy and to take him home and love him.. after the 3rd er trip !!! it was SO frustrating b/c he was loosing weight and vomiting and no one would believe me.. Here's my opinion for what it's worth i called the hospital made them waive the charges ... But they told me that when a baby presents they like to do as little tests as possible... my son also gets croup all the time..and at 7 they have done 1 xray ever.. I don't think it's a lawsuit just hug your baby and have them waive your charges..



answers from Chicago on


My heart goes out to you. What a scary ordeal to go through. I am so glad that your baby is alright now.

Unfortunately, I don't think that you have a case. I went through a ton with my son's health (and my health) after my 4-year old was born and the Attorney's that I contacted literally were interested in one thing- did anyone die? The fact of the matter is that a hospital is big business and going up against them takes a lot so you have to have everything documented and there has to be a solid case. I literally had tons of documentation and proof that someone altered my medical records to cover something up (I respiratory arrested) and still this wasn't enough for *any* attorney to take it on.

My advice, as hard as it might be, is to just be grateful that you didn't have a different outcome. You did what you needed to do as a Mom and because of it, your baby is safe and here today.

We need helmets and knee pads for this Mom stuff! :) Enjoy your little one. There are more bumps in the road ahead. :)




answers from Chicago on

I do not think you have a case, but that does not mean that you cannot report this to the hospital "higher ups". They can look into the incident and decide if someone needs better training or what other changes need to happen.

I'm sorry this happened, but by reporting the incident (and it may come back that no one did anything wrong based upon how your child was responding/acting when they sent him home) at least it will get looked in to and could help them take care of the loops, if need be.

Glad your son is ok, though.



answers from Chicago on

I know what you are going thru. I have a 17 y old that had leukemia,at age 2, the dr knew it yet never said anything because we were just out of the military and moving back home. My daughter came with in hours of dying, and when i called the dr from the er room she admitted she knew. However trying a malpractice case across country isnt worth it. But in your case, id get copies of the records from all the drs, and hospitals first. Do not let on that you intend to sue. Then seek a lawyer that tries malpractice cases in your area. A good reccomendation comes from american bar association. However, sometimes the choice to sue isnt the best option., I feel your frustration and pain, in order to put this behind you ad move forward, you may need to talk to a lawyer to see if you even have a case. Good luck and remember sometimes you need to be your own dr. Dont trust that they are alway doing the right thing. Question everything!!!!!! and research your own. C.



answers from Chicago on

Hi Jennife,
Well I had a similar situtation with my youngest son who is now 18 months. I'll tell you my story and then what the lawyer told me and my husband (we contancted a few) Around August 15th or so 2007 my son fell off my bed and broke his arm. We live in Schaumburg so my husband took him to the Northwest Community Hospital treatment center very close to our house. And after and x-ray they confirmed it was broken and put on a temp. cast and gave us a name of an pediatric ortopedic dr. We made the appointment the following day and took him in. Well we ended not being able to put on a cast for almost a week due to the swelling (neither of us have ever broken a bone so we didnt know there was a waiting period) So after a week we were able to put a cast on which we were told that would need to stay on for 6 weeks. Which was a total bummer considering it was the middle of August so no swimming or full baths. So the nurse at the office suggest this new waterproof material that they have been using and she and the Dr. both agreed that it works great. So naturally my husband and I were like great now he can still swim and take a bath and we dont have to worry! Awesome! Well not so awesome after a while. When the six week mark came we went in for our appointment with the expectation that the cast would come off ( just a side note he broke his arm right aboce the elbow so when they re-set his arm it was in a 90 degree angle so his arm was bent) so at our appointment they took an x-ray to find that he was healing nicely. However the Dr. wanted to keep the cast on for 2 more weeks just to insure that he was fully heeled since you cant tell a 1 year old to take it easy. Thats is when the Dr asked the million dollar question...Is there anything wrong with the current cast? I said well it is starting to rip and tear by his plam. ( He was crawling on it at the time) And he is staring to smell too! Well the Dr. looked at it said it was fine and that the smell is normal for a cast especically in the summer. So I said that you and went on my merry way. About 5 days later my son came down with a high fever wasnt eating want drinking nothing all he did was sleep. So I assumed he had a bug and just let him sleep and tried to push fluids, now mind you the smell from the cast was horriable...the worst smell I had ever smelled. The next dasy he want any better and I noticed the plam of his hand was as red as an apple. I said this is crazy I am cutting open the cast by his hand. When I did I was horrified! It looked like my son had put his hand in a meat grinder. I called the orto immediatly and his office was closed and there was no way to reach him according to the answering service.So I called my ped. He said bring him in right away...he took one look at my sons hand and said get him to the ER and get that cast off...I need to see whats under there. Well after 6 hrs in the ER with 2 nurses and the ER dr holding down my baby attemting to get the cast off which they had a hard time doing. They were appaled at the fact that a bent arm cast had the waterproof gortex material.. All of the water that he had been in over the past 7 weeks was basically sitting in the elbow part of the cast creating a breading ground for MRSA. Yes MRSA the horrable antibiotic resistant infection that was all over the news a few months ago. We spent 3 days in the hospital giving my son heavy duty antibotics and treating his arm as if he was a burn victim because the arm from the elbow to the plam was so infected and red the dr said it looked like he put his arm in a deep fryer. Now the kicker to this very long story ( sorry) is that when we where in the ER not only did the the ER dr question the ortos of the DR.s from the practice came in the see what was going on and he said and I quote " Wow, thats not good." then he precced to walk out of the room and then say... Cant wait until the weekend me and the wife are heading up to door County..should be great!" So to wrap it up 3 days of IV antibotics which knocked my son on his a** because they were such aggressive drugs plus the 3 times a day dressing changes on his arm.. Sounds like we have a good Malpractice suit? We though so. Every lawyer we talked to said unless you can prove that what happend will have lifelong determental affects on your son the cost to sue would outway what amount of money that you may or may not receive if you win. They told us that it would cost a min. of 30 grand to get the case going and to court and if you won you probably wound walk away with nomore they 20 grand..So do they math we would be in the whole with the lawyers.. Now they did say that if anything should come up with in the the next 7 years...if he gert sick or something and the Dr says it is a direct result of the MRSA infection we could go to court then. So the Dr gets away with his "oops" while my son will have MRSA is his system forever. Sorry so long but I figured you would need the whole story to understand . Good Luck and please keep me posted.



answers from Chicago on

I agree that you should receive help in paying your medical bills & that your Dr & the first hospital give you a satisfactory explanation of what went wrong. I know that croup is challenging & complications happen despite the best of care but I think you deserve to have your questions answered. If they are not forthcoming with answers & don't adjust your bills then I would consult an attorney.



answers from Chicago on

Hi J.,
While I won't attempt to give you advice about your specific case, I will tell you that in order to win a malpractice case you must have damages. You have said yourself that your child is fine (thank God). Thus, you have no lasting damages. No lawyer will take this case because you would not be eligible for enough compensation to make it worth the filing and litigation costs. This doesn't even touch on whether the hospital was really at fault in its treatment. It could very well be that your son's condition changed over time, and at discharge from the ER he did not meet admission criteria. Kids are sooo much better off at home with their parents and away from hospital borne infections. That's my lawyer advice.

As a mom, I believe docs often do not listen to us when they should. We know our children, and we know when something just isn't right with them. I am so relieved for you that your child recovered from this very scary experience, and I hope and pray that you and your son will have good health in the future. You undoubtedly saved his life with your vigilence as his mother.
God Bless,



answers from Phoenix on

As a Respiratory Therapist i would say that the course of Treatment he was given was appropriate. A cool mist treatment isn't is usually all that is needed to help with the symptoms and I agree that croup is a watch and see thing and sometimes the rebound from all the the breathing treatments,steroids and cool mist either makes them better of the illness progresses and they get worse like your son. sometimes sticking to one facitity will help in these situations or since we live close to 2 childrens hospitals...go where the kiddo experts are in the future



answers from Sioux City on

Just read your post. I don't know if the statute of limitations has passed or not. there is a "rebound" swelling that occurs after racemic epinephrine has been used to open the airway of a child with croup. the standard of care for a treating physician is to observe the child for 3-4 hours after treating with this steroid. recently had a case where a child died in his sleep from complete airway obstruction. the child was discharged discharged after 45 minutes. don't know if they gave your child this particular steroid or not but in all liklihood, they did. .



answers from Chicago on

First of all.... I am SO SORRY you had to go through such an ordeal. It is never easy for us as parents to see our children ill, so when we feel our child isn't taken care of properly by the medical field we trust so much it's even harder. My youngest had Croup in December and it's definately not a fun thing to watch your child go through.

That being said, none of us can give you the "right" advice as the law is extremely complicated. You may have a case, you very well may not. I can tell you that the cool air WILL open up his airways. The hospital staff can only do so much when they see him per the information they have on hand. And, so much of pediatric care is guesswork since the patient him/herself can't relay exactly how he/she is feeling. I can also tell you that I have never taken my children to the hospital or doctor and had them treated lightly. There are so many lawsuits these days, especially in OBGYNE and Pediatric fields (the two most sued practices in the medical field per stats) that it would be incredibly dumb for them not to take every reasonable measure they could. They may have only done the cool-mist on him BECAUSE he was in another ER and received meds there...they don't want to OVER medicate him.

My BIGGEST advice to you is to go to a lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice. No one will be able to tell you for sure what you should/could/can do but someone who is familiar with the law. No need to work yourself up and get ready for battle in court if you don't even have a case. And, as someone who was blatently fired for being pregnant (I was told my "pregnancy is an issue and you need to find another job") it is EXTREMELY frustrating when you feel so wronged but legally can't do anything about it. It's a hard pill to swallow, but a LAWYER is your best bet. Most lawyers will provide a free review of your case and consultation.

GOOD LUCK and I am, again, SO happy that your child is okay.



answers from Chicago on

Sorry to hear about all this. I am not sure you have much of a case though sorry to say. Although I wonder why they didnt do a chest xray. Although that might not have shown anything either. Croup is hard cuz it can go from mild to very severe quickly. Although what happened is horrible, the ERs probably did nothing wrong and it was a worst case scenario that happened with your son. The ER cant keep every case of croup overnight to watch cuz the hospital would be overloaded. I know that everytime we have gone in for croup we have gotten steriods, neb treatments of adenaline, and we have been watched for 3-4 hours in the ER each time along with chest xrays and then sent home, including after a 911 transport.The money you spend on lawyers might be more than its worth. That being said, if you as a mother really feel the ER docs didnt do all they could, then maybe a legal consult is a good place to start for advice.



answers from Chicago on

Dear J., I 'm sorry but I can't advise you about the law suit. I think I can advise you though that you should really pay attention in your baby's health from now on. Happend to my little one last year, not that bad, but we ended to the hospital with pneumonia, antibiotics, steroids etc. Since then, she's very sensitive, catching all virouses, ear infections etc and I still have to support her with pulmicort every night. So now, I'm looking for a naturopath, a different approach, no medicine, especially steroids. I think, from now on you should be really careful. I'm spending my time trying to improve my family's life, away from ER and pediatricians. Wish you more luck !!!



answers from Chicago on

I am sorry that you and your baby had to go through this. Croup is very serious as you now know. I am not sure if you have a case though. Croup can change form mild to serious within minutes. When you were at the ER your baby may have been just fine to go home. Croup is not like a cold the symptoms are generally worse in the evening and early morning. In some cases though it happens during day and from my experince those are the worst croup attacks. The only thing I am wondering is did anyone instruct you on what to watch for or how to care for your child while he was ill? For some chldren just being in the cool air on the way to the ER opens up their airways. Once they are breathing fine you are generally sent home. We have been sent home form the ER only to be back within the hour because my daughter would go from being fine to having a very hard time breathing. When ever my children would have croup my husband and I would take turns staying up with them sleeping next to us so we could hear any changes in their breathing. I never left them alone during croup. The normal run is about 3 days but my girls always would have croup for 6 or more days and very seldom had a cold with it. They still get it severe enough to be put on steriods and they are now 16 and 18 years old. I have been told they should have out grown it around 5. I have been to the ENT and no one really knows why they still get it. It shows how croup is so hard to treat.
Never hestitate to take your child to the ER and if you are uncomfortable with what the ER doctor is telling you ask them to talk to your own doctor. Our doctor would always talk to us on the phone when we were in the ER. He would also always make sure we were comfortable with taking them home. I know you have been through a lot and this may not help but it does get easier. You learn the signs, what to watch for, and you feel better prepare. My daughter eventually started to be able to tell me she was going to have a croup attack hours before it would even happen.

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