Doctors were alarmed: ‘would I have my children have surgery here?’
Secret recordings captured physicians’ concerns that more children seemed to fare poorly after heart surgery. Their hospital kept doing the operations.
By Ellen Gabler, May 31, 2019
The New York Times – Tasha and Thomas Jones sat beside their 2-year-old daughter as she lay in intensive care at North Carolina Children’s Hospital.
Skylar had just come out of heart surgery and should recover well, her parents were told. But that night, she flatlined. Doctors and nurses swarmed around her, performing chest compressions for nearly an hour before putting the little girl on life support.
Five days later, in June 2016, the hospital’s pediatric cardiologists gathered one floor below for what became a wrenching discussion. Patients with complex conditions had been dying at higher-than-expected rates in past years, some of the doctors suspected. Now, even children like Skylar, undergoing less risky surgeries, seemed to fare poorly.
The cardiologists pressed their division chief about what was happening at the hospital, part of the respected University of North Carolina medical center in Chapel Hill, while struggling to decide if they should continue to send patients to UNC for heart surgery.
Dr. Blair Robinson Cardiologist:
“I ask myself, ‘Would I have my children have surgery here?’ In the past, I’d always felt like the answer was ‘yes’ for something simple. …
“But now when I look myself in the mirror, and what’s gone on the past month, I can’t say that.
“And if I can’t say it for my kids — and that should be our group discussion — if we can’t all look ourselves in the mirror and think we’re doing the right thing, then we need to change what we’re doing.”
That March, a newborn had died after muscles supporting a valve in his heart appeared to have been damaged during surgery. At least two patients undergoing low-risk surgeries had recently experienced complications.
In May, a baby girl with a complex heart condition died two weeks after her operation … Read more.