By BRAD RICH
Tideland News Writer
The parents of an Emerald Isle teenager who died June 29 after a skateboarding accident near his home have filed a legal complaint against Carteret General Hospital.
The suit, which does not name any individuals as defendants, was filed Monday in Carteret County Superior Court by attorneys R. Bailey Melvin of Greenville and John T. Briggs of The Kellum Law Firm in New Bern, on behalf of David and Kimberly Hughes, parents of Drew Hughes, who was 13 when he died after being removed from life support at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.
It alleges the hospital and/or it employees: “failed to keep Drew Hughes properly sedated and restrained; failed to properly re-intubate Andrew Davis Hughes during the transport; failed to perform standard objective tests to verify proper placement of the endotracheal tube; failed to recognize clear signs and symptoms of an esophageal intubation and respond to those signs; attempted to falsify the medical records to cover up their negligence; failed to use their best judgment in the treatment of Drew Hughes; failed to use reasonable care and diligence in the treatment of Drew Hughes and in the application of their knowledge and skill to the care of Drew Hughes; failed to possess the required skill and learning to treat Drew Hughes; failed to practice within the standard of care for respiratory therapists, nurses and/or paramedics in the same or similar communities; and were negligent in such other respects as may be shown at trial.”
The complaint also states that “The actions of employees of defendant Carteret General and officers, directors and managers of Carteret General were grossly negligent and/or were done with reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others such that the cap on non-economic damages does not apply to this case; the acts and omissions of employees and/or agents of defendant Carteret General, who were acting in the course and scope of their employment and agency at the time of the negligent acts, as alleged herein, are imputed to defendant Carteret General; and the aforesaid acts and conduct of the defendant was a proximate cause of the death of Andrew Davis Hughes.”
According to the complaint, “On June 28, 2013, Drew Hughes fell and hit his head while riding a skateboard. He was transported by ambulance to the emergency room of defendant Carteret General Hospital. A CT of the head was normal but doctors suspected a possible basilar skull fracture, therefore, the decision was made to transport him to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, NC. Because of weather conditions, he was transported by ground ambulance.
“Drew was intubated and placed on an ambulance. The ambulance left Carteret General at approximately 11:10 p.m. with EMTs Laura Lewis and Sherrie Taylor, respiratory therapist Angela Kerntke and registered nurse Shannon Cox on board. Ms. Kerntke had been licensed for less than a year at this time and was not properly trained or adequately experienced in intubating a patient outside of a hospital setting.
“The ambulance stopped outside of Newport, North Carolina to pick up paramedic Mike Murphy. Mr. Murphy took over as driver with Laura Lewis taking over patient care. Ms. Taylor departed the ambulance. At approximately 11:15 p.m., shortly after the exchange of crewmembers, Drew awoke and pulled out his intubation tube. The crew had failed to recognize the signs Drew was waking up and had failed to properly sedate him. They also failed to properly restrain Drew, which would have kept him from pulling the ET tube out.
“Mike Murphy pulled the ambulance off the road and, according to the ambulance report, all four crew members worked to suction and re-intubate Drew with Angela Kerntke being primarily responsible for the attempted re-intubation,” the complaint continues. “Drew was given paralytics and sedatives, which meant he could not breathe on his own. He was completely dependent on the oxygen from the endotracheal tube. Drew was intubated into his esophagus rather than his trachea and was not receiving oxygen and could no longer breathe on his own. At the time of the re-intubation, Drew’s parents were parked in their car immediately behind the ambulance.
“After the attempted re-intubation, the ambulance continued enroute to Vidant Medical Center,” the complaint continued. “The crew never used objective testing, such as colormetric testing or capnography, to verify that the endotracheal tube was in his lungs and not his esophagus.
“Almost as soon as the attempted re-intubation was done, Drew’s heart rate began to drop and they could not find a pulse. According to the ambulance records, at approximately 11:25 p.m., Andrew’s heart rate is in the 30s and he has no pulse. CPR was started and epinephrine was given.
“According to the records a shock is given with a defibrillator at 11:38 p.m.,” the complaint alleges. “CPR was continued. Drew’s heart rate was in the 40s. More epinephrine was given. During this time, the emergency room physician at Carteret General was called to get permission to give Amiodarone. The emergency room physician told the crew to recheck the tube and suction because the arrest may be respiratory related. The crew again failed to verify the tube placement.”
According to the complaint, “The ambulance was diverted to CarolinaEast in New Bern because Drew’s condition was deteriorating. They arrived at Carolina East at 11:43 p.m. according to the ambulance records. Drew had no pulse on arrival. Once at CarolinaEast, the emergency room physician documented that Drew’s color was cyanotic, there was no fogging of the ET tube and Drew had rumbling sounds in his stomach. All of these are classic signs of an esophageal intubation.
“A respiratory therapist at CarolinaEast immediately extubated and re-intubated Drew on the first attempt,” the complaint continues. “Within a few minutes his blood oxygen saturation level returned to 100 percent and his vitals improved.
“However, blood gases were obtained which showed a ph. of 6.88, which is consistent with massive hypoxic brain damage from a lack of oxygen during the ambulance transport. Drew remained at Carolina East until approximately 1 a.m. at which time he was transferred by ambulance to Vidant Medical Center. The ambulance crew failed to notify the doctors at Vidant of the esophageal intubation and the period of time that Drew was without oxygen.
“Upon arrival at Vidant it was determined that Drew had no brain activity,” the complaint states. “Upon further testing it was determined that he met the criteria for brain death. Life support was withdrawn and Drew passed away.”
The complaint states that, “plaintiffs David B. Hughes, Sr. and Kimberly D. Hughes are entitled to recover compensatory damages for medical expenses, and other expenses, incurred in the treatment of the minor plaintiff Andrew Davis Hughes up until the time of his death in an amount in excess of $10,000.00; are entitled to recover damages for infliction of severe emotional distress in an amount in excess of $10,000.00; and are entitled, on behalf of the Estate of Andrew Davis Hughes, to recover damages in excess of $10,000.00.
The Hughes family and their attorneys declined to comment on the suit.
Michelle Lee, community relations director for the hospital, said Tuesday that the hospital “extends its deepest sympathies to the Hughes family,” and noted that the Hughes family “is very close to our family here at Carteret General.” However, she added, “On the advice of counsel, we cannot comment” on the complaint or the allegations in it.
David Hughes works in information services in the hospital.