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Doctors’ Communication Failure Ends In Severe Patient Brain Damage

MacKenzie Briant survived a heart transplant that corrected a congenital heart defect. She fought through four months of her life with only half a heart, according to her mother and had regained much of the ground that she had lost, if any, by being born with a malfunctioning heart.

But, five years ago she received a major setback when she needed treatment for a cold. Her immune system was compromised due to her ongoing cardiac care. Her cardiologists failed to communicate necessary details with each other, leading to MacKenzie receiving an Afrin nasal spray that ultimately stopped her heart, cutting off her oxygen supply and resulting in severe brain damage.

Medical negligence was to blame for MacKenzie no longer being able to walk or talk because of the profound brain injury she sustained from the Afrin spray. When MacKenzie’s mother called the hospital seeking assistance, the cardiology fellow at the Children’s hospital where MacKenzie was being treated promised to contact her transplant cardiologist to confer.

The conversation did occur and the fellow was advised that MacKenzie should avoid Afrin nasal spray because it could have an adverse effect on her and her heart. The message was relayed to MacKenzie’s mom to treat the cold with a nasal spray, but the part about not using Afrin was left out.

Her mother did select Afrin and shortly after administering it to her daughter, MacKenzie stopped breathing and was rushed to the hospital. She now requires around-the-clock care and cognitive therapy. The family will received $15.2 million from the University of Washington system after a judge found medical negligence, in the form of miscommunication, resulted in MacKenzie’s life-altering brain damage.

Source: Insurance Journal, “University of Washington to Pay $15M After Medical Mistake,” July 16, 2013

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