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Woman in vegetative state after toothache treatment

By CAROL MATROO Sunday, July 14 2013

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On January 24 this year, Juanessa John, 30, was a healthy, vibrant young woman who was living her life to the fullest, a mother whose world revolved around her 11-year-old daughter, Tikeya.

Eleven days later, John was a mere shell of a human being, lying on a hospital bed, blind and unable to respond to human touch or sound after seeking medical treatment for a painful wisdom tooth at the Arima Health Facility and the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope.

Five months later, visiting John at the Eric Williams hospital, her brother, Chieftan Neptune, said his sister is brain dead.

“They have a rating system at the hospital and they rated Nessie (John’s nickname) at a three. Anything rated under five is brain dead,” Neptune told the Sunday Newsday.

“She is just withering away, wasting away. We are blaming the system outright, they (medical personnel) left someone who was having difficulty breathing, unattended. This could have been avoided.

“We were told that she had Ludwig Angina which causes difficulty in breathing. All we want to know is what is happening now.

“If there is anything else that can be done, let it be done, tell us where to go, tell us something,” Neptune pleaded.

John’s mother, AnnMarie James, is unable to come to terms with her daughter’s condition - lying in a vegetative state on a hospital bed — and is calling on Health Minister Fuad Khan for answers. “In the space of 11 hours my daughter became a shell. She was ‘BBMing’ her friends telling them that she was in the hospital...she walked into the ambulance and walked out of it.

“She didn’t come here with her legs bend up and crooked. She got up and went to the bathroom...she walked back to the bathroom, and in just a few hours this is what she has become,” the heartbroken mother said.

John’s medical matter was simple enough. On Thursday, January 24, 2013, she went to the Arima Health Facility to seek medical assistance for a painful wisdom tooth. The staff at the Facility referred her to Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC), Mt Hope.

The next day, January 25, John went to the Dental department at EWMSC where she was given antibiotics and painkillers and sent home.

“That was it, just tablets and home. Saturday now, I looked at her and said ‘Nessie, your face not looking right’, because it was starting to swell, but she had just started taking the medication, so...

“The next day, I was outside washing when Nessie came running and pointing at her throat. I asked her what happen, you can’t breathe? She shook her head saying no. We rushed back to the Arima hospital and they asked her what she was doing there.

“They were upset because they (the medical personnel) said she was supposed to be warded and treated, not sent home,” James said. At the Arima hospital, John was treated as an emergency case and sent back to EWMSC in an ambulance at about 9 am, that Sunday. At Mt Hope, she was placed on a bed with an oxygen mask over her mouth and nose. That was the extent of her treatment during the day, James said.

“About half past seven that night me and her brother, Chieftan, said we would go home because we hadn’t eaten or bathed for the day. I told her (John) to give her phone to the nurse and she would call us if it was anything.

“The next morning (Monday morning) I got a call from her boyfriend saying that Nessie crash, that her heart stopped. We just rushed to the hospital and when we got there we couldn’t tell that it was Nessie. Her brother asked me, ‘Mummy, that is Nessie?’ Her face was swollen and her tongue was hanging out of her mouth, her eyes were bulging. They told us it took ten minutes before they could revive her. She suffered brain damage,” James said.

James claimed that while the family was at the hospital not much was done to help her daughter even though she was in a critical state. She said the family was told that a specialist was to see John. This specialist did not arrive until 11.45 am, said James.

James said John underwent surgery that same Monday and was placed in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital where she suffered a series of seizures. She said the doctor who was seeing to her daughter suggested she be transferred to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital but that he said when he contacted the Port of Spain hospital he was told that no more patients were being accepted there.

“Another doctor said that they (Port-of-Spain) had to take her so they (doctors) called again and she was transferred to the Port-of- Spain hospital,” said James. She said before John could be moved to the Port-of-Spain, the doctor who was able to get her admitted there, said her daughter’s white blood cells were taking over the red blood cells in her body and she was never supposed to be sent back home (in the first place).

James said John suffered several more seizures at the Port-of- Spain General Hospital and was heavily sedated there. She was subsequently transferred back to the Eric Williams hospital, on February 26, where she remains to this day.

When the Sunday Newsday visited John on Friday, she was clad in a generic hospital gown that felt like rough toilet paper, and adult pampers. She was curled into a foetal position, her arms folded awkwardly against her belly, fingers abnormally bent.

Neptune said his sister has shown no signs of improvement since she came back to the Mt Hope Hospital.

“At the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, they said while she was recovering, she hit a plateau, that there was not going to be any more changes,” he said.

James said her granddaughter, John’s daughter Tikeya, was afraid to go to the hospital to see her mother because she cannot understand what is happening.

“She would ask when was mummy coming home, or if mummy was speaking and I just keep saying ‘soon’,” she said.

Contacted for a comment on John’s case, Health Minister Dr Khan said he did hear about the case some time ago but he did not know what the findings were on it.

“I will have to investigate this again. I have to because this is a serious thing,” Khan told Sunday Newsday.

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