In November 2019, Seattle Children’s Hospital issued a press statement that 14 of its patients had been sickened and six had died due to Aspergillus mold on its premises since 2001.
Stritmatter Kessler Koehler Moore and the John Layman Law Firm filed a Class Action Complaint on December 2, 2019, against Seattle Children’s Hospital on behalf of the child patients who became infected by Aspergillus mold after they were hospitalized between the late 1990s through 2019.
The complaint alleges:
- that hospital administrators failed to maintain a safe environment for the patients;
- the doctors and nurses who provided care to the child patients did not know that the hospital premises were unsafe,
- that transmission of Aspergillus was Seattle Children’s Hospital’s fault.
This is the story of child patient E.H. whose case has now been resolved.
E.H.’s parents learned they were pregnant on January 1, 2019. On April 30, 2019, a fetal scan revealed E.H. had a severe congenital heart defect. Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart. The treatment for this condition involves multiple surgeries done in a particular order to increase blood flow to the body and bypass the poorly functioning left side of the heart.
On July 11, 2019, E.H.’s parents met with a cardiothoracic surgeon at Seattle Children’s Hospital who would be performing E.H.’s first surgery. Her parents had recently read a local news story about Aspergillus concerns at Seattle Children’s Hospital. They asked the surgeon whether the Aspergillus problem would affect E.H.’s operating room. The surgeon reassured them that the issue had been resolved. Plans were cemented to have E.H. delivered at Tacoma General Hospital followed by immediate transfer to Seattle Children’s Hospital. She was born on August 21, 2019.
E.H. underwent a total of three surgeries at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The first surgery lasted 11 hours and was performed on August 26, 2019, in operating room #12. After the surgery operating room #12 was closed from 09-16-19 through 10-09-19 for installation of a HEPA filter according to a January 8, 2020, Department of Health Investigative Report.
E.H. appeared to stabilize, and was allowed to be moved to Ronald McDonald House on October 14, 2019. Unfortunately, her condition worsened, and she was transferred back to Defendant Hospital four days later on October 18, 2019.
On November 7, 2019, E.H. underwent an unsuccessful tricuspid valve repair in operating room #11. She was in surgery for six hours. Seattle Children’s Hospital cardiologist told E.H.’s parents that she would likely need a heart transplant. Several days later, the Seattle Children’s Hospital cardiologist described a path toward transplant candidacy that would involve immunosuppressants. However, they said this was not an option for E.H. due to her possible Aspergillus exposure.
The January 8, 2020, Department of Health Investigative Report shows that air sampled on the same day as E.H.’s tricuspid repair met operating room closure criteria. By the time of its investigation, operating room #11 had been reopened only for low-risk cases. On November 10, 2019, E.H.’s mother asked the cardiologist whether E.H.’s surgery had been done in one of the affected operating rooms. The cardiologist said they would look into it and that an Infectious Disease specialist would contact her. She heard nothing further about this from the cardiologist and was not contacted by Infectious Disease until many days later.
Antifungal therapy with Voriconazole began on November 15, 2019, with Infectious Disease noting the two high-risk surgical exposures to Aspergillus during two open-chest procedures.
E.H. was intubated on December 16, 2019. She was acutely ill. Her third and final surgery was a tricuspid valve replacement on January 2, 2020. E.H. succumbed on February 12, 2020. E.H.’s mother held her baby in her arms and sang to her as she died.