Hospital drug error may have damaged baby's brain

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The Independent Online
A baby was given 10 times the prescribed amount of morphine for surgery, in a medical blunder which could leave him permanently brain damaged.

Paul Luscombe, a builder, and his wife, Julie, are awaiting the results of further brain scans on their son Kieren followingthe overdose which occurred during an operation four weeks ago.

Kieren turned blue and suffered severe fits after the mistake and spent some time in intensive care at Treliske Hospital in Truro, Cornwall.

The hospital has faced criticism for poor procedures in the past. It paid damages to the parents of another baby earlier this year after a needle was left in the child's body, and has been criticised for allowing a nurse to take part in an appendix operation. The Luscombes are anxious to highlight the blunder with their child to prevent it happening again.

Mrs Luscombe, 28, of Illogan Highway near Truro, said yesterday: "They are making so many mistakes and they don't know what they're doing to people's lives. They have destroyed our lives and my baby's life." Kieren was six weeks old when he went in to Treliske for a hernia operation. The hospital has admitted he was given four milligrammes of morphine instead of 0.4 milligrammes.

As Mrs Luscombe watched him on the ward afterwards, he started to turn blue. A nurse took him and dispatched Mrs Luscombe to get more assistance. But she said: "I couldn't find another nurse. I was just screaming for somebody to save my baby. Luckily, there was a doctor who was looking at a leukaemia patient."

Kieren had fits and stopped breathing. Medical staff resuscitated him and he was placed in the intensive care unit. Mrs Luscombe said she was later told they were certain Kieren would live, but did not know the extent of any brain damage. He was still having fits last week.

Mrs Luscombe, who also has two girls, Katy, six, and Georgia, two, said: "I want people to know what is going on. This is my baby, my beautiful baby. I don't know what they've done to him. I can't eat, and I can't sleep."

Her solicitor, Philip Snell, has applied for legal aid to pursue a claim for damages against the hospital. But it could be some time before the case is settled as they wait to see the full consequence of the blunder.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust said they were "very sorry" and admitted liability. "It was an error. It was very unfortunate and the staff were distraught. We deeply regret it."

She said immediate disciplinary action was taken against the medical staff involved - understood to be two nurses - although no details were being released. The spokeswoman added: "Whenever anything happens we look at procedures as well and reinforce them witheveryone. It would be foolhardy not to."

Two years ago, a sister at the hospital, Valerie Tomlinson, was given a warning about her conduct and put on six months' probation after it was discovered she had taken part in an appendix operation.

Last year, the trust agreed to pay damages to Steve and Andrew Jones after an independent inquiry confirmed that part of a needle used for testing blood had been left inside their son, Ben, for nine days soon after his birth at Treliske.