A nationwide effort to catch a fatal illness in children has begun In the wake of the tragic death of 12-year-old Rory Staunton at the hands of sepsis,The New York Times has reported. Staunton was the son of Irish-born parents, Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton, who live in Queens, New York.
The New York Times has reported that, “Rory’s case has prompted doctors, nurses and hospital administrators across the country to make new efforts to head off the kinds of problems that may have contributed to his death.”
Rory’s parents Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton have begun a crusade to inform parents about their rights in emergency rooms and to encourage reform in hospitals nationwide. They are seeking passage of a “Rory’s Law” which would safeguard children in emergency rooms and help doctors and parents look for signs of sepsis. Their website is rorystaunton.com.
Sepsis can be very successfully treated with antibiotics if caught in time. Every delayed hour makes it more difficult to stop.
Rory Staunton passed away after contracting an infection through a scrape he received while playing basketball. The night he incurred the scrape, he began vomiting, prompting his mother Orlaith Staunton to take him to the doctor the next day.
By the time Rory saw his family pediatrician, he was running a high fever and suffering severe leg pain, and his skin was not returning to its normal color quickly when pressed with a finger. Concluding that it was a stomach bug, Rory’s doctor sent him to the emergency room at NYU Langone for fluids.
After some intravenous drugs, a doctor thought Rory looked better and sent him home with anti-nausea medication. Three nights later,Rorypassed away from sepsis while in the Intensive Care Unit at NYU Langone.
Following his death, his grieving parents began to piece together signs that had been missed or miscommunicated during Rory’s care. His pediatrician noted his mottled skin, a rapid pulse was record while at NYU Langone, and a highly irregular blood test showing massive infection was delivered three hours after Rory had initially been discharged from the ER. Together, those signs would point to something much more dire than just an upset stomach.
NYU Langone, which said Rory’s death in their care was “a matter of great remorse,” will not discuss its procedures on the night that he was in the emergency room.
Read more about Rory Staunton's story
“We are committed to learning from this event to prevent this or a similar situation from happening again,” Lisa Greiner, a spokeswoman for the hospital, told the New York Times. She said the hospital had changed its discharge procedures to require that a doctor and nurse both check off test results and vital signs. She also said the lab would notify a doctor immediately if it found signs of infections.
Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton, who have since sued NYU Langone, say all hospitals need to go further. They were bewildered that NYU Langone had not included parents in their checklist, failing to the let them know that they had even run a blood test on their Rory.
“Keeping parents out of the loop is shortsighted and will inevitably lead to more tragedies such as Rory’s,” Orlaith Staunton said.
Now, three hospitals in New York - Lenox Hill in Manhattan, Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens, and Glen Cove Hospital on Long Island - are testing out new procedures in order to fine-tune the model for ‘Rory’s Law.’ Part of the reform includes doctors taking a mandatory pause to brief parents on test results, and what symptoms to be mindful of once discharged.
Also as part of the reform, the three New York hospitals are implementing a draft of a four-point checklist in order to prevent anything falling through the cracks, especially in the high-pressure environment of an emergency room.
“Stuff falls through the cracks; I can guarantee it does, occasionally,” said Dr. D’Angelo, the director of emergency services for the hospital network testing the changes. “It’s not that there are bad people caring for the patient — it’s just the reality of a complex environment.”
Rory’s father Ciaran Staunton will be on hand to speak on Friday at the New York Academy of Medicine and their symposium on detecting and treating sepsis. His case will also be the subject of a panel next month at Johns Hopkins Medical Center during an international conference on medical errors.
Rory’s case also prompted a consortium of 55 hospitals in the Greater New York Hospital Association to engage in “serious, substantive discussion about pediatric screening” for sepsis, said Brian Conway, a spokesman for the association.
Read more about Rory Staunton's story
In the wake of the Staunton’s tragedy, many doctors have indicated that this was an accident waiting to happen. “I think it could have happened almost anywhere,” said Dr. Jeremy Boal, the medical director of 16 hospitals that are part of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Systems, which has run aggressive sepsis-detection programs since 2008. “It absolutely could have happened here.”
Meanwhile, a mother in Florida has come forward to say that the publicity around Rory’s case saved her son.
Nate Byington, 12, of Jacksonville, Fla. became ill with a case of swimmer’s ear and was given antibiotics.
His mother Cara Byington said, “His ear continued to swell and became hot to the touch,” she said. She insisted on returning to the emergency room.
“The attending nurse and doctor took one look at him and said, ‘Possible mastoiditis,’ ” she said, an infection that has spread to the bone from the ear, and comes with the possibility of major complications, including sepsis.
“The E.R. doctor told me that we were probably down to hours before he was in serious trouble,”she said.
After 24 hours of intravenous antibiotics, Nate recovered.
“Rory’s story made me inclined to be skeptical when the pediatrician kept, in my opinion, blowing off my concerns,” Byington said. “I will always credit Rory’s parents’ willingness to tell his story for my son’s life.”
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