Tuesday 21 November 2017

How doctors missed vital signs and chance to save the 12-year-old nephew of Niall O’Dowd

Rory Staunton
Rory Staunton
Orlaith, left, and Ciaran Staunton with their children, Rory and Kathleen
Former Presidential candidate Niall O'Dowd


VITAL signs that the 12-year-old nephew of well known Irish American businessman Niall O’Dowd was dying from a bacterial infection of a simple cut were missed by doctors in New York, it has been claimed.

Rory Staunton, the son of Niall’s sister Orlaith and her husband Ciaran, from Co Mayo, the founder of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, died in April when the graze sustained in a basketball match turned into blood poisoning.

Although septic shock is a leading cause of death in hospitals, and although a campaign has been undertaken by a consortium of 55 hospitals in New York state including the one he attended, Rory’s condition was not spotted, according to a story in the New York Times entitled: “An infection, Unnoticed, Turns Unstoppable”.

“Yet nowhere along Rory’s journey, from boy with a bellyache on Thursday to gravely ill boy on Friday night, did anyone act on strong indications that he might be fighting for his life. Critical information gathered by his family doctor and during his first visit to NYU Langone was not used, was not at hand or was not viewed as important when decisions were made about his care, records show,” journalist Jim Dwyer says.

The Stauntons, who own the well known Molly Bloom’s pub in Queens, New York, brought Rory to their family doctor and he was sent to the emergency room suffering from vomiting, a fever and a pain in his leg.

However, doctors at NYU Langone Medical Center said that he was suffering from a stomach upset and dehydation. He was given fluids, told to take Tylenol and sent home. He died in intensive care three days later.

The Stauntons were not told about blood tests that indicated he was producing neutrophils and bands, white blood cells, at very abnormal rates that that would suggest a serious bacterial infection.

Orlaith Staunton, originally from Louth, told the newspaper: “Nobody said anything that night. None of you followed up the next day on that kid, and he’s at home, dying on the couch?”

NYU Langone declined to discuss any aspects of Rory’s care or hospital procedures with the New York Times.

In harrowing detail Mrs Staunton recounted how her only son deteriorated in front of the doctors without intervention – how he couldn’t eat or barely walk, how he was freezing with a high temperature and how doctors put it down to stomach flu.

“Around his nose was gone blue,” his grieving dad Ciaran Staunton told the newspaper. “Down his body side was gone blue.”

Rory, who had one sister Kathleen, was placed on a ventilator when they brought him back to the hospital again, but the medical team were unable to resuscitate him.

The Stauntons are seeking an honest account of what happened to Rory from NYU Langone.

Above all,” Mrs Staunton told the newspaper, “we know that Rory would want no other child to go through what he went through.”

When his nephew died, Niall O’Dowd, who considered running for the Presidency here last year, described Rory as “the son I never had”. The boy was brought home to Ireland to be buried beside his grandmother.

The well respected businessman and advisor to Hillary Clinton, owns the Irish Voice newspaper and irishcentral.com in New York.

He told how he tried to ‘steal’ Rory away often: “a Notre Dame game, a weekend at our house, whenever the opportunity presented itself. I revelled in this big laughing Irishman, with the "Simpsons" and "Family Guy" obsession, the absurd sense of humor and the serious political side of him who studied American politics with the intensity of a professional.

“JFK was his hero he told me, because of his idealism. Rory too wanted to make a difference, to help the less well off. For one so young he already had a highly developed social conscience.

“He had already been to the White House and had met President Obama and Michelle on St Patrick’s Day in 2011. Not surprisingly, given his parents and their keen interest in all things political, Rory was fast becoming a political expert.”

Describing how his nephew “charmed the pants off whoever met him”, he said girls were already showing interest and Georgetown University and its politics degree were on his radar.

A warning was issued just last week over an increase in cases of the “frequently life-threatening” invasive Gas disease (iGas) to clinicians here by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Severe forms of iGas include the flesh-eating bacteria necrotizing fasciitis. There were 66 per cent more cases of iGas in the first six months of 2012 (75 cases) than the same period of 2011 (45 cases), said a notification by the centre in recent days. Half of these cases were in May and June.

IGas infections are “acute, frequently life-threatening infections ranging from the more commonly encountered bacteraemia (bloodstream infection), cellulitis and pneumonia to the rarer meningitis puerperal sepsis and septic arthritis”, the notification said.

Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick, consultant microbiologist with the centre, said that iGas (invasive Gas disease) was from an infection of Group A Streptococcus (Gas). Gas “is a germ that is often found in the throat and on the skin”. Some people carry Gas with no symptoms and for others it causes mild illness (sore throat and skin infections).

“It is very unusual for Gas to cause more severe illness but it can happen. These infections are called invasive Gas disease (iGas), which can be life-threatening.”

Symptoms of iGas include fever, muscle aches, pain or swelling, redness at a wound, dizziness and a flat red rash over large areas of the body. The germ is spread through kissing, sneezing and close contact. The spread can be minimised by washing hands after coughing and before eating.

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