Father wants answers about daughter’s death after STARS flight
Kristen Joiner, 39, died after STARS helicopter medical transport from Steinbach to Winnipeg
Mike Fitzpatrick wants answers after his 39-year-old daughter died after being transported from Steinbach on a STARS helicopter flight to Winnipeg.
Kristen Joiner, 39, arrived at Steinbach Hospital in unstable condition on Nov. 28, 2013.
The single mother had suffered a pulmonary embolism and was in shock, according to details CBC obtained from a draft report commissioned by Manitoba Health.
A decision was made to send Joiner by air using a Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) helicopter from a hospital in Steinbach to Winnipeg "even though it would have been faster by ground."
The report says when the helicopter was approaching the Winnipeg airport the patient was switched to a portable oxygen tank.
The helicopter had to abort the landing and took extra time to land as it has to switch sites.
It's been three months since this happened, and it's going to take a hell of a lot longer to get over it, believe me- Mike Fitzpatrick, father of Kristen Joiner
By the time Joiner was transferred out of the helicopter to the ground ambulance, the portable oxygen tank ran out, and she became hypoxic and hypotensive, requiring elevated levels of medications to support her blood pressure.
She was transferred to St. Boniface Hospital, where she later died.
"I'm wondering why they put her on a helicopter in the first place," said her father. "I wonder about it every day. I think about my daughter every day. I can't help wonder if this could have turned out different, and the more information I receive, the more it makes me wonder."
The report says “running out of oxygen should never happen," and "all air transfer organizations go to great lengths to ensure this does not occur, as the consequences can be catastrophic."
STARS denies they have ever run out of oxygen on any flight and says the portable tank was simply "running low."
"She never went without adequate medical oxygenation and any of these acuity situations of patients conditions are often very dynamic. Oxygen levels, blood pressures and everything can change for many different reasons," said Dr J.N. Armstrong, chief medical officer of STARS, adding the oxygen tank "was identified, and the cylinder was changed out, and in no way did that event affect the patient's outcome."
The province then commissioned a report on the air rescue agency. The draft report was finished in December.
But Armstrong said the report’s author wasn't given enough time to work on the report and got many things wrong.
"We strongly disagree with the report," Armstrong said.
The report's author states he was asked to provide the report in a "timely" manner and some areas may still require further review, but "I believe the essential issues underlying the problems have been captured here."
Now, Fitzpatrick is left asking questions about what happened to his daughter.
"I don’t know if she would have survived or not. I’d like to think she would have, but who can say, right?" he said. "I just want everyone to know that what happened in this helicopter, maybe shouldn't have happened.
"I'm trying to keep it together, but you know it's been three months since this happened and it's going to take a hell of a lot longer to get over it, believe me."