John McCormack Speaks Out

PUBLIC CITIZEN
and
CENTER FOR JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY

* * * * *FORUM ON MALPRACTICE* * * * *

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

The Forum on Malpractice met in Room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, at 10:00 a.m., Congressman John Conyers, Chairman, presiding.

Statement presented by Mr. John McCormack of Pembroke, Massachusetts

Good morning. Thank you for having me.

I want to tell you a horrendous story about my daughter Taylor that died at the most prestigious hospital in the world for children, Children's Hospital, and I'm here today because I don't want families that lived the living hell and the pain and suffering that I went through. I lived every parent's nightmare of losing a child, and this is especially difficult because our child should be alive today. Because of medical errors she is not.

When our 13 month old daughter was brought into the emergency room, we were told that the shunt which was placed in her head at birth was in failure. She had a hydrocephalus, which is a shunt that relieves the fluid, and it goes down into her stomach, which was blocked, and it is a common procedure, and you're not supposed to die from it.

We were then told that since the OR was too busy and due to the late hour and on the weekend, she was being bumped from surgery that evening and would have to wait until the next morning for surgery, which she did not make until that morning.

Given her clinical presentation at the time, it was grossly negligent not to have done the surgery immediately. To further compound the problem, she was not even placed in an intensive care unit, nor was she properly monitored while she awaited surgery.

My daughter was showing all of the signs of fatal intracranial pressure which was totally ignored by the nursing staff and the attending resident neurosurgeon who failed to even check on my daughter at all after she was placed in the room.

After being placed in the room, the resident neurosurgeon working that evening at the hospital paged the attending neurosurgeon, who was supposed to do the surgery and was on call that evening. However, the attending neurosurgeon put his pager on vibrate, went to sleep, and never came in and did not answer the numerous pages, despite the fact he had previously given an order to the attending resident neurosurgeon to tap the shunt, which the resident neurosurgeon did do, but the shunt was dry and no fluid was obtained, which was a dangerous condition.

After tapping the shunt, the resident neurosurgeon repeatedly paged the attending neurosurgeon to let him know that the shunt could not be tapped, but as previously noted, the attending neurosurgeon had gone into a supermarket to do his shopping. Then he says he put his pager on vibrate as he went into the supermarket, and then went home and fell asleep, never answering any of the pages from the resident neurosurgeon, and never even bothering to inquire as to the results of the shunt tap on my daughter's condition.

And they even had him scheduled to do the surgery in the morning, and nobody ever notified him.

The resident neurosurgeon in question who rendered care to my daughter that evening had a limited medical license, which had expired at the time he rendered such care. Yet he was left in charge to call the shots.

The resident neurosurgeon also ordered blood tests which were taken that evening which showed that my daughter had critical carbon dioxide levels, as well as abnormal potassium and sodium levels, but nobody, including the resident neurosurgeon, even bothered acquire a knowledge or address these abnormal results.

Although ICU monitoring was needed, my daughter was not placed in an intensive care unit. No doctor ever examined my daughter from the time she was admitted to the time she went into respiratory arrest from 12:20 a.m. to 6:20 a.m.

The hospital could have done a bedside procedure to relieve the pressure of my daughter's brain, but did not even attempt.

I just want to give you some examples of the pain and suffering that my family endures, and this is especially to the President and to the medical society.

My daughter's last words were at two o'clock in the morning, which was, "Mama," when my wife was in the room when she was crying out for help, and the nurse just happened to come by and just gave her Tylenol and said that was irritability.

Second of all, when the anesthesiologist came in in the morning and was asking my wife questions about my daughter, the heart monitor was going off. My wife ask the anesthesiologist if my daughter was okay. He didn't even bother looking at my daughter. He just looked at the chart, looked at the monitor, and said my daughter was having a slow heart rate. She would be all right.

My wife got out of the chair and looked at my daughter. My daughter was blue. She ran out into the hallway to the nurse's station and told the nurse that my daughter was blue. She came in and told the anesthesiologist to press the red button, which was the code button. He didn't even know where the code button was at.

Third, my daughter was in a coma for a week. Now, I physically grabbed her bottom and it felt like mush, and they were using all of these medical terms, and I had to ask that my daughter was in a coma. She was on life support, and we had a meeting, and they told me my daughter had 98 percent brain injury, that she wouldn't know she had a father, a mother, or two brothers.

And that night my son -- my son plays soccer, my oldest boy, and we went to his hockey game, and we were putting his hockey gear in the car, and I remember him saying to his mother if Taylor is ever going to come home again.

Right then and there I had to decide. It was the hardest choice of my life, that I couldn't put my two boys, Jack and Steven, through this ordeal. So me and my wife took her off life support.

It was on a Friday. My daughter fought every last breath for three and a half hours, and my kids came in to hold her, tell her that they loved her, and I particularly remember my youngest son Steven in the patient waiting area playing with toys with tears coming down his eyes, and he was four at the time.

When my daughter finally passed away, I told my family to leave, and I wanted to see my daughter be respected. I saw my daughter get tagged, wrapped, and I carried my own daughter down to the morgue myself.

And I apologized to her that I failed to protect her and guide her, and I live that failure every day of my life. And I remember the memories of putting her on the slab and telling her that I'm very sorry, that I'm going to fight every step of the way to make things change.

And my two little boys are affected by it every day. You know, the first day after we had the funeral, my little one went back to school, and right before he went to school he told his mother. He goes, "Mamma, I have a great idea. I want to put a ladder up to heaven, climb up, put a Bandaid on Taylor's head and bring her back."

And for the last two Christmases he keeps on asking me. He wants to give toys back to Santa to have his daughter back.

And my oldest son Jack keeps on asking me why the doctors did this to Taylor, and I don't have any reasons why.

So, Mr. President and the medical society, you know, these are real life stories of pain and suffering, and I would like for you to live in my shoes for even five minutes of the day to see what I go through.

I thank you for your opportunity, and thank you