Medical review
Three-year-old Arviat child has close call with death

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Arviat ( May 17/00) - It was any parent's worst nightmare come true.

Arviat's Mary Aulatjut was devastated when a Winnipeg doctor told her that her four-year-old daughter, Stephanie, might not make it through the night.

Aulatjut had taken Stephanie to the Arviat Health Centre on March 12 with a high temperature, swollen face and rapid breathing.

Aulatjut says the nurse on call administered Tylenol and told her she thought it might be Stephanie's appendix. She sent Stephanie home, and the doctor was not called. "I was so mad because it was obvious Stephanie was in no condition to go back home," says Aulatjut.

"I know the nurses do their best, but I want to see them start doing whatever they have to and work harder to properly diagnose sick children.

"This almost cost my daughter her life."

Stephanie was medevaced to Winnipeg, Man., the next day where it was discovered she was suffering from kidney poisoning.

She underwent complete dialysis and spent the next 11 days unconscious.

Stephanie has recovered but has to return to Winnipeg for further testing this fall.

The Kivalliq Regional Department of Health and Social Service's executive director Dr. Keith Best says a clinical review is being done to determine if the nurse did an accurate assessment on Stephanie.

"There's really no set protocol in a situation like this," says Best.

"The nurse, based on her scope of practice and level of competence, is to make a clinical judgement on whether the situation requires for a physician to be called in.

"The clinical review of the action and discussion with the nurse will lead to some form of determination as to whether the nurse should have known better or acted differently."

Best says there's no directive -- written or otherwise -- instructing nurses not to call doctors.

"Nurses can call the doctor any time they want and it's their obligation to respond right away."

Aulatjut says she's just happy her daughter is home and doing well. She adds she can't thank the medical staff in Winnipeg enough for saving her daughter's life, adding she's grateful for every extra second she now has to spend with Stephanie.

"I'm grateful to my mom (Margaret Aulatjut) for being with me the whole time in Winnipeg. I really needed someone around me.

"It's very hard being a single parent and going through something like this with a sick child alone."