Complacency is the Common Reason of Most Negligence Cases

The parents of a teenager from Long Island who died after he went into sudden cardiac arrest at a cross country meet in Western New York are now suing Erie County, a local fire department, and others for wrongful death.

Ronan Guyer was 14 years old in November 2012, when he competed at the State Cross Country Championships held at the Elma Meadows Golf Course. During a practice run, he slipped and fell into the mud. The fall on his chest caused sudden cardiac arrest, according to his family. Ronan died at Women and Children’s Hospital five days later.

In a newly-filed lawsuit, Ronan’s father claims the defendants “did not have appropriate medical personnel and / or an automated external defibrillator on site at the time of Ronan’s collapse and did not otherwise provide assistance to him.”

Named in the suit are Erie County, which owns the golf course that served as the race’s venue; Jamison Road Volunteer Fire Company, which the suit alleges did not provide ambulance service to the event; the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA), which sanctioned the championship; Section VI of the NYSPHSAA; and the Southold Union Free School District on Long Island where Ronan was a student-athlete.

Each defendant is accused of negligence and wrongful death.

The lawsuit claims the 14-year-old “suffered severe personal injuries and experienced conscious pain and suffering, including psychological and emotional fear of his death.” That would be key to any possible damages, according to Roland Cercone, an attorney who specializes in civil law.

In the suit, the father makes two key allegations of liability — that an automated external defibrillator was not provided at the event and that an ambulance was not on site.

According to NYSPHSAA’s website, a state law from 2002 requires that for an athletic event held off school grounds, “public school officials must assure that AED equipment is provided on-site.”

As for the ambulance service, the lawsuit says “Jamison (Volunteer Fire Company) was contacted to provide an ambulance at Elma Meadows Golf Course on the day Ronan collapsed” and “negligently failed to attend.” It also alleges the fire company’s negligence “caused the Championships to proceed without an ambulance on site, which would have prevented Ronan’s injury.”

Cercone says the key to this suit will be medical testimony proving the teen’s death could have been prevented with an AED and/or ambulance service. “Negligence alone is not enough, you need causation,” Cercone said.

2 On Your Side reached out to all of the defendants for comment.

Section VI referred us to NYSPHSAA. A media spokesperson said the executive director would get back with us, but that has yet to happen. A message to the association’s attorney has not been returned.

The superintendent for the Southold Union Free School District said in an email, “I have no comment at this time.”

A call to the workplace of the fire company’s president was not returned Monday.

A spokesperson for Erie County responded with a statement that reads, “While Elma Meadows was the venue for the event, the event you are referring to was held by the NYS Public High School Athletic Association. Prior to the event, Erie County required that they procure insurance naming Erie County as an additional insured, which they did. Accordingly, Erie County is being provided with contractual defense & indemnification in this case under the insurance policy.”

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Thursday, February 6th, 2014 Event No Comments

Knowing that the AED is also a Diagnostic Tool can Help Prevent this Tragedy

A Fort Bend student is on a ventilator after collapsing in gym class. While his parents maintain their bedside vigil, they wonder if more could’ve been done in the moments surrounding his collapse.

Doctors tell the family if the boy recovers, he’ll likely be in a semi-vegetative state. They don’t yet know why the boy collapsed, but they question how the school responded.

Sheila Chan is just beside herself.

“He’s not going to be the same,” she said.

The Missouri City mother has spent every day for a week at Texas Children’s Hospital hoping for a miracle for her 12-year-old son Dustin.

“He’s a good child,” Chan said.

The seventh-grade honors student was in gym class last week at Dulles Middle School when he collapsed, and his family believes precious minutes afterwards were wasted.

“Something should have been done, not just standing there,” Dustin’s uncle, Huy Tran, said.

From what they’ve been able to piece together, they say the coach called for the nurse who responded with an EPI pen. The principal also was there as they all waited for an ambulance. But even as it seemed Dustin was struggling to breathe, they say no one performed CPR or used a defibrillator that was nearby.

“I think in my heart they didn’t do what they’re supposed to do for Dustin,” Chan said.

On Tuesday, Dulles Middle School principal Michael Heinzen sent parents the following letter:

“Our hearts are deeply saddened that one of our middle school students suffered a medical emergency last week. Our main concern is for the student and his family, and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.

“Upon initial review, it appears emergency procedures were followed in providing the student assistance until advanced medical support arrived. We will continue to collaborate with local emergency and medical personnel in an effort to maintain the safety and security of our students.

“If you have any questions, please call me at (281) 634-5750.”

With Dustin in ICU on a ventilator and with brain damage, his mother doesn’t accept that and fears it could happen again.

“I don’t want another family to go through what I go through right now. We need to save all the kids’ lives,” Chan said.

Both the nurse and the principal have visited Dustin at the hospital.

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Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 Event No Comments

Bystanders Fight to Save Man at Airport while 122 AEDs at Airport Remain Unused

Sue Hostler was running through a parking garage of Philadelphia International Airport in late August, hurrying to catch a flight home to Pittsburgh, when she came upon a young man in even more of a hurry – for someone to save his life.

Robert Hallinan, a 25-year-old limousine driver from Broomall, Pa., was sprawled on the floor of an elevator, unconscious. He was in cardiac arrest. Hostler, a frequent business traveler and private pilot trained in CPR, acted almost instinctively.

She called 9-1-1 and quickly started CPR. The operator stayed on the line, but said nothing about the possibility of retrieving an automated defibrillator from the adjacent terminal. Another traveler, Vivian Nolan, a cancer patient, came by and offered help. Together they were able to roll Hallinan on his back as Hostler continued hands-only compressions, hard and fast, 100 times a minute.

More than a dozen other people passed by, but no one else stopped. “We were getting increasingly desperate. I was keeping up the compressions, but he wasn’t responding. I kept calling out to people passing by to find an AED, but all I got were these deer in the headlight looks. I knew there was an AED somewhere across that walkway, but I didn’t want to send Vivian away because I wasn’t sure the EMTs would be able to find us,’’ Hostler said in a recent interview.

Finally, after about 15 minutes, an airport police officer arrived. Then Nolan led emergency medical technicians with an AED to the elevator. Hostler had been doing CPR for 17 minutes when they took over and shocked Hallinan’s heart back to life. Although he was in a medically-induced coma for several days, he is recovering with no neurological damage.

Philadelphia International, like most major airports, has AEDs throughout its terminals, 122 in all, according to a 2012 assessment done by the city’s fire department. Yet to those units were invisible to Hostler and the dispatcher managing her call that day.

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Tuesday, December 24th, 2013 Event No Comments

Another AED Not Used Contributing to Loss of Life

A senior at St. Charles North High School, Lauren was practicing with the varsity drill team in February 2008 when she collapsed on the cafeteria floor from sudden cardiac arrest.

The Laman Family

The Laman Family

Although an AED had been located just 40 feet from where she collapsed and paramedics found the device next to her when they arrived more than 12 minutes after the call, the AED was never used. Lauren was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Despite being surrounded by teammates, coaches and school staff, no one did the one thing that could have saved Lauren’s life.

“I cannot accept that,” said her mother, Mary Laman. “She should be here celebrating her birthday … . She should be celebrating Christmas.”

Mary recalled learning the Heimlich maneuver when she was in high school. While at the time she didn’t think much of the training, it wasn’t until her husband was choking years later that Mary saw the importance and was able to react.

The same could be said for teaching how to use an AED and training ongoing generations. “The results would be tremendous,” George said.

George, who worked as a paramedic for 11 years, understands the importance of time.

“It’s frustrating for paramedics to be unable to reach, treat and defibrillate a cardiac patient in time to afford them a good chance to survive,” he said. “Those precious minutes that Lauren laid on the floor without defibrillation, especially with the AED just feet away from her, makes our story especially sad. We can’t have those minutes back. We can’t have Lauren back. Hopefully, this terrible experience will help pass this bill and provide a change so others do not needlessly die.”

“My family made a promise that we would do everything in our power to prevent this from happening to anyone else,” he added.

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Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 Event No Comments

Are your staff well trained on your AED model?

It turns out defibrillators can’t miraculously save lives if they can’t be turned on.

AED in Question at Museum Station Toronto

AED in Question at Museum Station Toronto

A man needed life-saving help earlier this month but, although there were people on scene willing to provide it, a failed battery prevented any opportunity for a happy ending.

The good news for a man who went into cardiac arrest on the Toronto subway was that a nurse and a doctor were on the same train and a defibrillator was on the wall of the TTC station.

The man collapsed on the northbound train Nov. 8, the AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) on the wall at Museum station was deployed.

The problem was they could not get it to turn on.

“It didn’t work,” said one witness.

“The battery was dead,” added a Toronto firefighter.

In other words, the AED was useless.

The nurse and doctor attempted CPR and chest compressions until Toronto Fire got to the scene and took over and applied its operational AED.

But it was too late.

The senior citizen was taken by ambulance “vital signs absent” and pronounced dead in hospital.

The big question is if the AED in Museum station had been operational, could it have helped?

“My understanding is that this was a tragedy and even Fire/EMS were unable to revive the gentleman,” said a saddened TTC spokesman Brad Ross. “Toronto Fire and EMS did attend, but the customer did die, sadly. There’s no way to determine if the AED would have made a difference. CPR and efforts by Fire and EMS with their defibs were unsuccessful.”

But why did the AED not work?

”The battery had somehow become dislodged from the unit when it was removed from the case,” Ross explained. “This has been shared with EMS to make sure people are aware of this anomaly. All units on TTC property have been checked.”

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Monday, December 2nd, 2013 Event No Comments

What is the competency level of your organisation’s first aiders?

ST Photo

ST Photo

“Four in 10 cardiac arrest incidents went unnoticed by private ambulance crewmen when they responded to non-emergency calls…”

Do you think your organisation’s workplace first aiders can perform their duties above reproach?

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Monday, October 21st, 2013 Comment No Comments

Lost Opportunity when AED not Used, so Potentially Liable

A defibrillator was 30 feet away from the 15-year old who died last weekend while playing a pickup basketball game. An autopsy revealed Antwon Whitehead died of heart failure after collapsing on the court at Carver High School on Saturday afternoon.

Georgia state law requires defibrillators in every public school. Carver High School’s is located in the training room next to the gym. The law only requires schools to have one, it doesn’t require people to use it in certain situations.

There were two coaches present when Whitehead collapsed on the side of the court. One of them performed CPR on Whitehead.

The Director of Athletics at Muscogee County School District, Dr. Gary Gibson says the coaches followed protocol.

“It’s not an easy call,” says Gibson. “These coaches first mindset is, if I can do the CPR, this is what I’ve always done, I’m comfortable with it, and so that’s what they go to.”

Defibrillators have only been in public schools since 2009 so they haven’t necessarily been at the top of everyone’s mind, especially in high-stress situations. Officials are working with schools to educate and raise awareness about the presence of the defibrillators and how to use them.

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Saturday, September 28th, 2013 Event No Comments

One More Family Grieves

During my rounds, I attended to a patient by the name of Mr L.

He is 57 years old, a father of a 10 year old girl, with no prior medical condition.

According to his wife, he was working late till approximately 1am at home because he tends to stay up late as the next day is a Sunday.

Past 5am, his wife heard him gasping for air during his sleep. Because he was not responsive, the ambulance was called.

They arrived past 6am. 2 shocks were delivered before return of a pulse. However, by this time, he was already down for 45 minutes.

In the hospital after head scans, he was diagnosed with hypoxia-induced encephalopathy, aka brain damage from lack of oxygen.

He is now bed-bound with contractures, needs a tube for feeding, on adult diapers with a large sacral sore the size of a adult fist.

His wife was asking for my opinion on the Do-Not-Resuscitate orders for her husband, because she cannot bear to see him suffer any longer. He has been in this state for half a year already.

If only someone can reach him within the first few minutes with an automated external defibrillator (AED), it will surely give him a better fighting chance.

This someone WILL NOT have a duty-of-care to this father/husband in the capacity as a volunteer, unlike another victim of an incident whom I had attended to before.

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Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 Comment No Comments

More Facts to Save Lives

More facts, from the UK. Facts from the USA can be found in an earlier post.

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Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 Comment No Comments

Another Family Grieves

In my rounds recently, I attended to a patient who I will name Mr S.

He is 46 years old, a father of 2 school-going children.

3 months ago, he was playing street soccer with his colleague at a company-organised game, when after a second round of play, he collapsed by the court.

He was attended to immediately by the private ambulance paramedics on duty at that time.

According to his colleagues, the paramedics thought they felt a pulse, and they also thought he was breathing. But he was still unconscious.

On the way to hospital, the colleague who was accompanying him found the paramedics performing CPR on Mr S. No mention of any use of any AED or defibrillator of any kind.

Any now he is bed-bound, un-communicative, prone to contractures, and has to be fed via a tube through his nostrils.

So what went wrong here?

I have written a topic on this, and even had it published in our local press.

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Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 Comment No Comments