Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Girl's parents demand apology

Want her death called a mistake rather than an accident

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All 10-year-old Ashuza Halisi's parents want is a simple apology and a clear explanation as to why their daughter is dead.

The explanation of Ashuza's death does not provide closure for the family; instead, it has raised more questions.

Ashuza died after receiving day surgery March 11 at the Maples Surgical Centre, where their family doctor and Health Sciences Centre referred them.

Manitoba's chief medical examiner called Thursday for an expert review, rather than an inquest, and ruled her death accidental.

The instructions following surgery that her mother, Ephemie Nyelele, received said Ashuza could go home and treat any pain with Tylenol. After a day-and-a-half at home with Ashuza in terrible pain, Nyelele found Ashuza panting with cold legs and feet.

Though Nyelele called 911, tried cardiopulmonary resuscitation and watched the paramedics try CPR, it was too late for young Ashuza. She died in the early hours of March 13.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said in a written statement following her death that the chief medical examiner is required to be notified and will investigate if a patient dies within 10 days of surgery.

Willy Halisi and his wife were first told that Ashuza's death was caused by an infection that she had before surgery. But when they met with chief medical examiner Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra Thursday, they learned Ashuza's death was the result of an accident during surgery.

Dr. Balachandra announced Thursday "an autopsy confirmed death was due to acute peritonitis (infection of the linings of the bowel) due to a perforated ileum (small bowel), most likely due to complications of recent umbilical hernia repair. The manner of death was accidental (therapeutic complication)."

But Halisi does not see it that way.

"It was a mistake," said Halisi. "I do not think of it as an accident, I see it as a mistake.

"We thought when we found out what happened we'd find some closure," said Halisi. "Now that they are saying it was an accident, and giving recommendations, the file is not closed yet. If they are still going to follow up on it, how can we find closure?"

Halisi said the WRHA has not been helpful. He said the WRHA did not go over the media release with them before it was issued.

"They say that they are in touch with the family -- they are not in touch with the family," said Halisi. "We are not in touch."

The family is not interested in compensation.

"Nothing can bring her back," Halisi said. "No amount of money can do that."

Halisi and Nyelele don't want to release the name of the surgeon who performed the surgery in hopes she will come forward and apologize.

The parents said they have not heard from the surgeon since their first meeting with her.

Nyelele recalled first meeting the doctor for Ashuza's tests.

"She's a mother like me," said Nyelele. "But she has not talked to me. I brought my daughter, I shook her hand, she spoke to my daughter and the very day of the surgery we spoke. She's a mother; she didn't even call me as a mother just to say sorry.

"I'd expect that from her but she never did that."

Normally in deaths like this, the medical examiner orders an inquest using his authority under the province's Fatality Inquiries Act.

But in this case, Balachandra decided to use a section of the law that allows him to make direct recommendations to the attorney general or to other relevant agencies or departments.

In this case, the WRHA ordered a review immediately following the child's death, so Balachandra recommended the WRHA call in a pediatric surgeon from outside Manitoba to review the surgery and recommend ways to prevent similar deaths.

In response, the WRHA said it's acting on the recommendation.

WRHA chief medical officer Dr. Brock Wright will make the appropriate arrangements to retain a pediatric surgeon from outside the province to examine the review of the case so any recommendations can be received and acted on as quickly as possible, the WRHA said in a statement.

"We know this has been a very trying time for the Halisi family. We are working with Maples Clinic to see what improvements can be made as a result of this case," Wright said in the statement.

Wright said instructions provided to families following day surgical procedures are already being reviewed, and at least one change in policy has already been made: Followup calls to patients' families are now made within 24 hours -- rather than 48 hours -- of the procedure.

Wright said the WRHA and the Maples Surgical Centre look forward to receiving any other recommendations from the out-of-province pediatrician.

The WRHA said it remains in contact with the Halisi family and will continue to provide them with updates.

 

-- with files from Alexandra Paul

steph.crosier@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2013 A3

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