Having a baby is both the most wonderful and terrifying thing in the world. In the first days of a newborn’s life, parents rely heavily on nursing staff for their expert knowledge and care, especially if a baby ends up in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
No parents expect to find out that their infant has been injured while in a nurse’s care, but that’s exactly what happened to Kelsey Bond and Kyle Keller. Their infant son Kieran’s skull was fractured when a nurse fell asleep and dropped him during a nighttime feeding.
Bond and Keller were told that their son had been examined by a pediatrician and was fine, but a subsequent ultrasound showed that Kieran developed an acute subdural hematoma, a brain bleed at the base of the skull.
While Kieran is recovering, Bond plans to sue the hospital for the negligent behavior that could have resulted in her son’s death.
A similar incident gained national attention when actress Eva Amurri Martino’s son, Major, was dropped by a night nurse after she fell asleep while caring for the infant.
Like Kieran Keller, Major suffered a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain. Major has also recovered with no permanent damage, but Amurri Martino suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the incident.
Dropping infants is one of the most common causes of newborn injury, but other shocking incidents have occurred as a result of hospital staff negligence.
Nurse severed newborn’s toe.
Devante Hogue, born prematurely at 29 weeks, has several serious medical issues that caused him to remain hospitalized after his twin brother, Delante, was released. After more than eight months, Devante remained in the NICU, where his mother, Erica, trusted the nurses she had come to know well with his care.
Erica was shocked when she was notified that a nurse accidentally cut off Devante’s pinky toe as she tried to remove surgical tape from the infant’s foot. Doctors tried to reattach the infant’s toe, but were unsuccessful.
Although the hospital did apologize for the nurse’s negligence, the Hogue family is considering legal action.
Unfortunately, accidents involving newborns and infants occur more often than parents realize, as nurses are often overworked, sleep deprived, and stressed on the job. In fact, the American Nursing Association blames a chronic nurse shortage on the extreme fatigue and burnout nurses face at work.
Nurse administered fatal dose to newborns.
It’s no wonder then, that medical errors are the third most common cause of death in the United States. Although most of these medical errors are the result of accidental negligence, in the truly shocking case of nurse Genene Jones, dozens of children and infants were administered fatal overdoses on purpose.
Jones is currently serving consecutive life sentences in the deaths of two children after giving them fatal injections. It is suspected that Jones may be responsible for the deaths of more than 60 other children and babies since 1981.
Switched at Birth
Not every incident involving nursing negligence results in physical harm to a child. It may sound like the premise of a Lifetime movie, but sometimes a nurse’s negligence results in the wrong baby being taken home.
Most hospitals now require Mom, Dad, and Baby to wear matching ID bracelets to prevent such mistakes from happening. Despite such safety precautions, babies are still accidentally switched at birth.
Karin Tanabe gave birth to a healthy baby girl and allowed her new daughter to be taken to the nursery so she could rest following the birth. The next morning, her daughter was brought back to her later than she’d expected. The nurse told the shocked mother that her daughter had been briefly given to the wrong family.
Tanabe’s new daughter and the other mother were wearing their ID bands, but the nurse misidentified the numbers, leading her to assume that she’d given the right baby to the right parent.
While the situation was rectified quickly, the nurse’s negligence almost caused Tanabe to unknowingly leave the hospital with someone else’s child. Fortunately, the number of babies who are switched at birth does remain relatively small.
Baby Kidnapped Just Hours After Birth
Even scarier than the thought of bringing home the wrong baby is the thought of a newborn being abducted from the nursery. That’s exactly what happened in 1998, when a woman posing as a nurse kidnapped hours-old baby Kamiya.
Shanara Mobley, Kamiya’s mother, thought the woman was a nurse, and the nursing staff who interacted with her thought she was a family member.
Mobley sued and won a settlement against the hospital for negligence after her daughter’s disappearance. All leads in the baby Kamiya case ran cold for 18 years, until law enforcement tracked down Gloria Williams, who was identified as the kidnapper.
The good news is that Kamiya is a normal teenager in good health and is working on building a relationship with her biological family.
Keeping Newborns Safe
Nursing negligence is most often accidental. Exhausted nurses are just as likely to drop a newborn as a sleep-deprived new mother is.
Overworked hospital staff with several patients under their care are not likely to notice every visitor in the maternity ward.
Parents can take several precautions to keep their newborns safe while they are under hospital care. If your baby is healthy, request to “room-in” rather than send the baby to the nursery.
Rooming in allows Baby to stay in the room with Mom and Dad until it is time to go home. This ensures that babies are under the watchful eye of their parents during any procedures.
If rooming in isn’t an option, parents can still be proactive about ensuring their newborn’s safety during a lengthy hospital stay. Check your hospital’s Leapfrog scores to see how they compare with other hospitals in the area.
Does the hospital have a NICU on site? What is the doctor/nurse/patient ratio? Fewer newborn accidents occur in the NICU with specially trained nurses equipped to handle the needs of high-risk babies. In addition, the lower the staff to patient ratio, the more likely that your baby will receive the attention and care they need.
Hospitals too are working to ensure that fewer accidents involving newborns and infants occur. Well-rested nurses are more alert and attentive, resulting in fewer incidents of negligence.
In 2016, nurses in Washington state won their case against Tacoma General Hospital, resulting in more rest breaks that do not burden other nursing staff or require the nurse on break to be on call during their break.
In addition to matching ID bands, one hospital in Idaho has added extra security measures in the maternity ward. At Portneuf Medical Center, security checks are done weekly to ensure all equipment is properly functioning, and all maternity staff participate in at least nine security drills per year.
In addition, babies are fitted with an extra security band that will sound an alarm if it gets too near an elevator or door.
Even though hospitals are working toward reducing nursing negligence, parents should always trust their instincts. Kelsey Bond, the mother of Kieran Keller, said she “had a gut feeling everything wasn’t ok.” She was right, and her actions may have saved her son’s life.