MONTCALM COUNTY, Mich. (June 25, 2014)– A local family is filing a lawsuit against a hospital in West Michigan, claiming it’s responsible for the death of their son.
For the past four years Shannon Rudy says she has lived with panic attacks, depression and trouble remembering her day-to-day activities. The trauma comes after the youngest of her three children, Dakota Rudy, died at just 7-years-old.
On Aug. 23, 2010, Shannon said her spent that summer day playing outside near their home in Fowler. She said, as boys tend to do, he got dirty and came inside to take a bath.
“I went in and checked on him and had him drain the water once ’cause the water was little dirty,” Rudy said.
Upon leaving the bathroom Rudy grabbed a cup of coffee and began chatting with her father outside.
“The next thing I knew, his friend was in the bathtub with him, same age and he came out here and told my daughter to come get Dakota,”Rudy said. “She didn’t even get to the door, I heard her yell at me to come in.”
Rudy said when she entered the bathroom her daughter had already pulled Cody from the water. She said he was pale and wasn’t breathing. The boy’s grandfather began CPR.
Rudy said her son, who was only under water for a short period of time, started coughing up water and began breathing again. While he appeared to be OK, emergency crews were already on their way to their home, so Rudy said she sent her son to Carson City Hospital as a precaution.
“I thought we were just… we were going to go to the hospital…it was a check-up…we were coming home…we were going to go back to our normal daily life,” Rudy said.
On the way to the hospital Cody began to panic and his oxygen levels started to deplete.
“I was sitting there telling him everything’s going to be OK because I had to hold his arm,” Rudy said.
A doctor and some nurses, according to Rudy, began administering drugs to stop Cody’s breathing, but failed to properly open his airway while intubating him.
“The tube was improper and it just seemed like forever,” Rudy said. “It was horrible. It was forever.”
With the chaos unfolding before her, Rudy said she remembered the doctors saying her son wasn’t getting any oxygen from the first tube they placed in him. Then, she said they replaced it with a second tube.
Nearly 20 minutes after that tube was placed, she said a flight nurse showed up to airlift her son to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. She said once the nurse came into her son’s room, she listened to his chest and announced he wasn’t getting any oxygen.
“That whole time he was without oxygen and I knew that there’s no way that he could’ve survived at that point ’cause it was too long,” Rudy said. “The, I seen him when they were ready to take him to the helicopter and you could tell nothing was there. He wasn’t there, ya know, his eyes were open and he wasn’t there.”
Cody was pronounced dead the following day.
Two years later, Shannon and her attorney, Tim Sulolli filed a lawsuit against Carson City Hospital claiming medical malpractice.
“We retained three medical experts, one of whom is a medical director of the pediatric critical care center [at UCLA] to review the case,” Tim Sulolli, attorney with Goodman Acker P.C. said. “They all came to the same conclusion that Dakota’s death was entirely preventable. That Dakota should never have died if Carson City would’ve followed basic protocol in treating a child of that age.”
According to court documents, the hospital claims Cody died from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). ARDS is when fluid builds up in a person’s lungs.
However, an expert for Sulolli stated that is not what caused Cody’s death.
“The critical thing when you take away somebody’s ability to breathe for themselves and exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide for themselves is to get the right size tube in a timely fashion, and then ventilate them in the appropriate manner,” Doctor Judith Brill said in court documents.”That’s what wasn’t done here. And that’s the causation.”
FOX 17 reached out to Joan Sweet, who said she represents the hospital. Sweet said due to patient confidentiality and “physical privilege” she wasn’t able to discuss the lawsuit.
“I just wish they would state they made a mistake,” Rudy said. “I have a lot of anger. I have a whole lot of anger inside of me that I wish wasn’t there.”
While it’s not clear what caused his oxygen to decrease once he got to Carson City, family said, an x-ray showed there was some fluid in his lungs. Still, Sulolli’s experts said it wouldn’t have caused his death, adding his lungs were eligible to be donated.
“I know it wasn’t his lungs that killed him,” Brill said. “Because if you follow on and see what his lungs did with support at DeVos for the subsequent 48 hours, his lungs improved. So his lungs–he didn’t die of pulmonary death. He died of brain death.”