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Family sues Spectrum Health for negligence in Forest Hills teen’s death

March 24, 2015

By: Angie Jackson


GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The family of a Forest Hills teen who died last year after a medical treatment-related accident has filed a malpractice lawsuit against Spectrum Health and a pediatric surgeon.

Parents of Quiniece Henry, 13, learned in February 2014 that the Forest Hills seventh-grader had Burkitt lymphoma – a fast-growing, non-Hodgkin cancer – which doctors said was treatable with chemotherapy. Less than a week later, Quiniece died of complications resulting from an intravascular line that caused a perforation to a chamber of her heart, a medical examiner determined.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, March 19, in Kent County Circuit Court by Grand Rapids attorney Robert Buchanan, lists Spectrum Health Hospitals, Pediatric Surgeons of West Michigan, Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners and Dr. James DeCou as defendants.

Dr. Jeremy Bushman, a medical resident physician, is named in the lawsuit but not listed as a defendant. The lawsuit seeks to hold Spectrum Health and Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners liable for his alleged negligence.

The teen’s father, Quentin Henry, represents her estate in the lawsuit.

Quiniece died Feb. 13, 2014.

Negligent care by DeCou and Bushman “directly and proximately caused preventable and catastrophic injuries, and soon resulting untimely death,” the lawsuit’s affidavit of merit alleges. The surgeons are accused of ignoring X-ray results that showed they placed a catheter too deep and in Quiniece’s right atrium.

Quiniece was admitted to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Feb. 7 after an ultrasound of her abdomen showed a large mass that was determined to be a lymphoma. The tumor was not metastatic.

The teen went into surgery Feb. 8 so surgeons could take a tissue sample biopsy and also insert two central venous catheters – one to be used for chemotherapy medication and the other for dialysis, if needed.

The catheter for chemotherapy medication was placed first.

DeCou and Bushman later inserted a guidewire for the dialysis catheter down a vein in Quiniece’s neck toward her heart. A heart monitor showed her heartbeat became abnormal, which the lawsuit alleges was likely caused when the guidewire touched the inside of the right atrium.

The surgeons pulled the guidewire back slightly until Quiniece’s heartbeat became regular again. They then secured the catheter.

During surgery a few hours later, an X-ray of Quiniece’s chest showed the catheter was too deep and in the right atrium. The surgeons were notified of the X-ray results while surgery was still underway.

“Defendant DeCou and Dr. Bushman did not forbid use of the catheter or immediately correct placement. They ignored the abnormal results of the X-ray,” according to the lawsuit.

Bushman allegedly did not mention the X-ray or its findings in the operative report after surgery.

Quiniece’s parents were told the mass was Burkitt lymphoma and treatable with five months of chemotherapy, which was recommended to begin the next morning. The lymphoma was stage three.

The lawsuit says symptoms from the misplaced catheter began to show hours after surgery, when Quiniece’s heart started beating fast and she struggled to breathe.

Tests the next day, Feb. 9, showed declining kidney function. Using the dialysis catheter, a pediatric intensive care unit nurse started dialysis with calcium chloride and saline.

The lawsuit says Quiniece became restless, uncomfortable and agitated during the infusion. A few hours later, her heart was beating fast, her blood pressure had dropped and she was gasping for air. Her blood-oxygen level also dropped.

“Quiniece was writing in agony, and begging for help,” the lawsuit states.

Her heart rate slowed.

“Quiniece became unresponsive and her skin tone turned blue,” according to the lawsuit.

A code team started cardiopulmonary resuscitation, inserted a breathing tube and injected medication.

A chest X-ray on Feb. 10 showed the two catheters were in the same position as the previous X-ray. Doctors concluded the misplaced catheter had caused cardiac tamponade.

Cardiac tamponade occurs when blood or fluid collects in the sac surrounding the heart. The pressure from the fluids prevents the heart from operating normally.

She suffered profound brain damage and permanent loss of cognitive capacity before dying on Feb. 13, according to the lawsuit.

Kent County Medical Examiner Stephen Cohle determined the direct cause of death was pericardial tamponade, the death certificate shows. He noted that the “right atrium perforated from placement of intravascular line” and ruled the death accidental.

The lawsuit alleges Spectrum Health risk managers and an executive unsuccessfully “pressed” Cohle to change the cause of death.

The danger of misplacing a central venous catheter is “well-known and avoidable,” the lawsuit states. The surgeons are accused of disregarding a manufacturer’s warning on the catheter package that said placing a catheter into the right atrium can lead to severe injury or death.

The family is asking for every harm and loss recoverable under Michigan law.

Quiniece was in seventh grade at Forest Hills Central Middle School. Following her death, students organized a donation drive in her honor and a memorial education fund was established.

Family remembered Quiniece as a happy, loving person who was generous to many in the community.

“This was something so tragic that my wife and I did not see coming,” Henry said at the time of his daughter’s death. “I will miss my daughter tremendously.”