The parents of a young boy permanently paralyzed after suffering a preventable stroke last spring are suing two Wichita hospitals, saying their emergency room staffs ignored signs of an undiagnosed brain tumor until it was too late.
The boy, Dorian Morgan, was 5 when his parents took him to Wesley Medical Center-Woodlawn and then later to Via Christi Hospital St. Francis after he fell ill during a church service in March 2017 , according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. His symptoms at the time included headache, dizziness, nausea, poor balance, vomiting, lethargy, slurred speech and weakness.
Initially, the boy was diagnosed with strep throat at Wesley's ER and sent home with antibiotics on March 5, 2017.
When his symptoms worsened later that night, his parents took him to the Via Christi emergency room.
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The medical personnel who saw him in either ER were midlevel practitioners who never attended medical school, the lawsuit says. Even though the boy's symptoms "are clear indicators for an immediate neurological assessment and CT scan of the head," neither were done, the suit alleges.
Staff also ignored or failed to note several of the boy's symptoms in his medical chart, the lawsuit contends.
Asked for comment Monday, Wesley Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Burchill said the hospital had "not had the opportunity to review the lawsuit" yet. Via Christi did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
In addition to the hospitals, the suit also names medical staff, including a physician’s assistant and an advanced registered nurse practitioner who were on duty when the boy was seen in the ERs and the doctors who were responsible for supervising them.
As a result of the hospitals' failure to conduct neurological assessment and CT scan, the boy stopped breathing and "suffered a catastrophic and medically-preventable stroke" when only his mother was in his hospital room, the lawsuit says.
It wasn't until after that episode - 15 hours after his initial ER visit - that the boy received an evaluation by a board-certified physician and a CT scan, the lawsuit says. The scan revealed a tumor on the boy's brainstem and fluid build-up in his brain.
Ultimately, the stroke left the boy with paralysis of his right side, neurological damage and other "debilitating physical injuries that permanently changed his and his parents' lives," the lawsuit says.
In addition to allegations of gross neglect in the boy's care, the lawsuit says the hospitals' use of midlevel practitioners to save staffing costs puts patients at risk and that some employees' social media posts reveal a disdain for children and patients. Several of the posts cited in the lawsuit are memes that poke fun at the medical profession, patient care, drinking alcohol and difficulty dealing with kids.
The boy's parents, Kelli and Kevin Morgan, are seeking more than $75,000 in damages as well as punitive damages.
“What sets this case apart from others is how the triage nurses and midlevel providers at both hospitals didn’t take the parents’ complaints seriously," Dan Giroux, an attorney representing the Morgans, said in a prepared statement. "They ignored and dismissed so many of the symptoms the Morgans described, and they simply zoned in on the strep throat. ... That, coupled with the 15 hours Dorian doesn’t have an adequate evaluation, makes this case horrific.”
"Even after going to two different Level One trauma centers, the two primary hospitals in Wichita, Dorian wasn't seen by a specialist until he stopped breathing," Steven Torline, another attorney for the Morgans, said in the statement.
The Morgans lived in Haysville when their son fell ill last year, according to the lawsuit. The family now lives in Colorado, where Dorian was receiving cancer treatments. He completed chemotherapy last month and has an excellent cancer prognosis, but "he probably will never live independently," the attorneys said.
Dorian is 6 now.