Parents say poor care at Western Memorial put baby at risk

Frustrated parents in Corner Brook say poor care at Western Memorial Regional Hospital put their infant son at risk.
Shonna Carter holds her son, Lynkin, who turns 1 on Sept. 11, 2013. (Cherie Wheeler/CBC)

Frustrated parents in Corner Brook say poor care at Western Memorial Regional Hospital put their infant son at risk.

Last week, Shonna Carter and her husband Shane brought their son Lynkin to the hospital's emergency department.

The child had been lethargic, with episodes of projectile vomiting earlier in the day.

The Carters had seen these same symptoms 10 months before. 

At two months of age, it was discovered that their son had fluid on his brain.

Lynkin had a surgical procedure, ventriculoperitoneal shunting, where a (VP) shunt was put in to relieve fluid pressure. 

Five-hour wait

After five hours in the waiting room, Shane Carter asked why their son had not yet been seen by a doctor, even after the explanation of his pre-existing condition.

"He [Lynkin] wouldn't stand, he wouldn't sit, nothing," said Shonna Carter.

"There was no sign of life in this poor child, except that you literally could see his chest raise and fall, because myself and my husband were checking it — often. We were terrified. Upon arrival, I advised the person in registration, as well as the nurse in triage that my son had a shunt and I believe he was acting the way he was for that reason." 

When the child was finally seen by a doctor, the parents were told Lynkin had responded well to an anti-nausea drug that was administered, and he was okay to go home, but to monitor the situation.

By the next morning, the boy's condition had deteriorated.

The Carters waited at Western Memorial again, where their son had an MRI. They said however, they were told it would take 10 hours to get a result.

A nurse working on the floor, Carter said, asked Shonna Carter if she was okay.

"I broke down. 'No, I am not okay ... why do these tests have to take so long, why do I have to keep waiting for reports, for tests, for doctors — my son is almost in a comatose state at this point, and there is nothing I can do about it.' The nurse then took it upon herself to telephone a local pediatrician."

The doctor examined the child and said there was an issue with the shunt and Lynkin would be flown immediately by air ambulance to the Janeway Children's Hospital in St. John's.

The Carters felt a feeling of relief as something would finally happen.

Carter said she was also told that as parents who go to a hospital emergency room, it is their legal right to request a pediatrician.

"And also, any person with a VP shunt, it is protocol to have that ruled out before anything else takes place." 

Lynkin was in the operating room within an hour of arrival at the Janeway.

"After the surgery, the doctor told us the surgery went as planned and that he was awake and doing great. A half hour later, he was alert, trying to sit up, smiling and laughing. It was like night and day — and that was only after being in the Janeway for a total of less than three hours."

No response from Western Health

Carter has left two messages with Western Health to file a formal complaint, but has not heard back.

A spokesperson from the health authority told CBC they cannot speak to specific cases, but they will be looking into why no one contacted Carter regarding her complaint.

"I honestly do not want to ever bring my children to Western Memorial Hospital. I feel that strongly about it."

When asked by CBC what it would take to restore her faith in the hospital, Shonna Carter said she didn't know.

"Honestly, it's a little too fresh, very close to home. If there was anything that I felt was seriously wrong with my children, I might even pack them up and take that seven-hour trek to St. John's so they could be seen by proper professionals."

A week later, Lynkin is doing well, and the family is celebrating his first birthday.

"We're just going to do the normal one-year birthday stuff ... the cake, all that ... and we're going to let him just go at it. We're just extremely grateful he's reached his first year."