A two-year-old Manitoba boy is in hospital, suffering from severe brain damage after his father says he was deprived of oxygen during an air ambulance transfer earlier this month.
A STARS air crew picked up Morgan Moar Campbell in Brandon on May 2, for a flight to Winnipeg's Children's Hospital, because he had experienced a seizure.
The toddler was sedated and had a breathing tube inserted in his throat, but the tube somehow came out while he was being moved from the helicopter to an ambulance in Winnipeg, according to members of his family.
Morgan's father, Blair Campbell, told CBC News on Wednesday that his son would have been fine if he had not been deprived of oxygen for about 30 minutes when the breathing tube became dislodged.
"They don't know what they took from us," Campbell said, sobbing. "Morgan was just a happy child."
Morgan now has severe brain damage as a result of the oxygen deprivation.
"His eyes open up but he doesn't focus on us; he doesn't know we're there," said Bonnie Moar, the boy's aunt.
"He doesn't respond to his mom or his dad or any one of us. He seems to be in a lot of pain."
Campbell said he and his girlfriend — the boy's mother — are heartbroken. Morgan's mother has not been able to sleep and feels guilty about her son's situation, he added.
"He was playful, he liked to jiggle. He was pretty much happy," Campbell said. "They don't know what's missing in our life."
Moar said a doctor, a nurse and a paramedic were all with Morgan during the flight, but no one could tell the family what happened.
Morgan's family wants to meet with those staff members to discuss the incident, she added.
"Their report says 'Unknown.' Nobody did see the breathing tube completely dislodged from Morgan's mouth. And that's very hard for us to accept," she said.
Moar said Morgan might need to be permanently hooked up to a breathing machine for the rest of his life.
Incident under investigation
STARS, which stands for the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society, operates a medical helicopter that is like a "flying emergency room," travelling across Manitoba to help those who are critically ill or injured.
Officials with STARS are investigating the incident, which is also under review by Manitoba Health.
'We believe that there is no such thing as a perfect mission.' —Dr. Doug Martin
"This is something we take with an ultimate level of seriousness," said Dr. Doug Martin, the medical director at STARS.
"We'll be conducting a thorough review of this call with the hope of conclusively identifying what the causes were and finding out what we can do to protect from a recurrence."
Martin said emergency medical staff are always learning more about how to transfer patients safely.
"We believe that there is no such thing as a perfect mission," he said.
"There are always things to learn from. Little things that may be inconsequential from the standpoint of the patient, but they're very important to us because they represent opportunities to learn from our experience, to continuously improve our safety."
All the findings from the STARS investigation will be shared with Morgan's family, said Martin, but he added that only the doctors involved will meet with them.
Statement from Manitoba Health
This is a tragic incident, and health professionals have been in contact with the family.
The incident is currently under review by Manitoba Health, however the law prevents us from sharing the specifics of any single case.
Manitoba Health is committed to patient safety, and a full open process which is why Manitoba Health now has legislation in place requiring investigations of critical incidents, to identify what happened and what can be changed to improve safety in health care.
This legislation also requires health providers, including STARS and RHAs, to share the outcome of this investigation with patients and/or their family.
STARS has done its own internal review.
When the provincial review is complete, the facts of the incident and the actions already taken, as well as what actions are planned, will be shared with the family and the organizations involved.