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Hospital Misses E. Coli – Four-Year-Old Dies

Published on Sep 22, 2014 at 1:14 pm in Medical Malpractice.

A four-year-old girl died last week in Portland, Oregon after becoming stricken with E. coli that went undiagnosed for days. The family has hired a lawyer to take action against their local hospital that twice sent the girl home without testing for E. coli.

Stricken after Labor Day

The girl’s family and another family spent Labor Day together. While the source of the E. coli is not yet known, a five-year-old boy who was with their group also has E. coli and is in critical condition at a hospital in Tacoma, Washington. The two children shared a turkey sandwich at a restaurant, and also swam in a pond together – both are possible sources, but experts say the actual source may never be found.

After the four-year-old complained of stomach cramps and had a fever, the family took her to their local hospital on the Oregon Coast, Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital in Lincoln City on Wednesday, Sept. 3. The hospital sent her home that day with a diagnosis of rotavirus, and told the family to take her to a pediatrician for follow-up the next day. The chart notes from the first visit show that the doctor wondered if it was E. coli; they did take a stool sample, but never ordered the E. coli test.

The next day, Thursday, when her symptoms included fever, bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain, the family took her back to the Lincoln City hospital. A different doctor examined her that time and again sent her home.

E. Coli Diagnosis Comes Too Late

By Saturday, when the girl had not improved, the family drove 50 miles to the Willamette Valley Medical Center in McMinnville. By then, her kidneys were already failing, so the hospital referred her to the renowned Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, 40 miles northeast. That hospital confirmed the E. coli contamination. Sadly, when the girl showed some improvement Sunday, she later suffered a stroke that day and never regained consciousness. The family removed her from life support Monday evening, and she passed away at 9 p.m.

Her official cause of death was HUS – Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which was caused by a strain of E. coli called O157. With this condition, damaged red blood cells clog the kidneys, and can eventually cause kidney failure. Most HUS cases develop in children after 2-14 days of diarrhea, often bloody, from infection with E. coli.