Paralyzed Man Brain Damaged After Nurse Accidentally Switches Off His Life Support, UK
A paralyzed man being cared for in his home in Wiltshire, UK, was left brain-damaged after an agency nurse working for the NHS allegedly switched off his ventilator by mistake.
The incident, which occurred in January 2009, was caught on a bedside camera that 37-year old tetraplegic Jamie Merret had arranged to be installed only days before, because he was worried about the care he was receiving, according to a BBC News report.
The footage on the BBC website, accompanied by Health Correspondent Matthew Hill’s narrative, shows the nurse, Violeta Aylward, switching off Merret’s ventilator, and Merret, who is apparently aware of what has happened, trying to attract attention by clicking with his tongue.
It shows Aylward calling for help from a carer while she tries to fit an “Ambu bag” to Merret to help him breathe, but she is fitting it incorrectly, explains Hill, adding that it took 14 minutes for paramedics to arrive and then fit the hand-held pressure ventilator correctly to the hole in his neck.
Merret’s life support was off for 21 minutes before being restarted by the paramedics. But by then the damage to the brain was already done, said the BBC report.
His sister Karen Reynolds told the BBC that her brother’s life was now completely changed, “he doesn’t have a life, he has an existence”, she said. His mental capacity is now equivalent to that of a young child, she added, explaining that:
“He was a highly intelligent man and you could have long in-depth conversations with him and now it tends to be more simplistic.”
Reynolds, who is considering legal action, said her brother sent emails explaining his concerns to the health authorities but they did not act on them.
Merret was being cared for in his home in Devizes, Wiltshire, after a road accident in 2002 left him paralyzed from the neck down. He was able to have a conversation, control a wheelchair, and use a voice-activated computer.
However, he was very concerned about mistakes that had been made in his care, and had relayed his worries to NHS Wiltshire. He then had the webcam installed by his bedside, which gave a clear view of him in his bed and the controls of the life-support equipment next to it.
Aylward works for Ambition 24hours, an agency that provides services to the National Health Service (NHS), care homes, private hospitals, and individuals.
The agency has been in business since 1996 and has branches across England and Wales, reports the Telegraph.
NHS Wiltshire Primary Care Trust has issued a statement that says they have put in place a “series of actions to ensure that such an event will not occur again”.
They said as the issue may go to court, they are restricted in making further comments.
Ambition 24hours said they could not comment while an internal investigation was under way.
But a confidential report from Wiltshire social services that was leaked to the BBC’s Inside Out program suggests the agency was aware of its responsibility to provide a nurse who was trained in the use of a ventilator, but the systems the company had in place to check the staff it provided were correctly trained were inadequate.
Meanwhile, Aylward has been suspended while her regulating professional body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, investigate the incident.