Mum injected with skin-cleanser instead of epidural left paralysed
What was meant to be a routine spinal anaesthesia injection before childbirth turned horribly wrong for Grace Wang...
Grace Wang, a victim of an epidural gone bad will never know what it is like to run free with her son Alex.
An anaesthetist mistakenly injected chlorhexidine, a skin-cleansing fluid, instead of administering an epidural during a routine injection of spinal anaesthesia. The hospital has admitted fault and Grace’s case is the only one of its kind ever recorded.
Not only did the 33-year-old mother from Sydney suffer massive nerve damage, she also had to endure two brain surgeries and ended up paralysed from the waist down.
What was meant to be a joyous occasion being first-time parents, turned in to a nightmare. Grace and Jason never saw it coming. Grace recounts the sadness in her heart because she couldn’t even physically hold her own son when he was born.
“When all those nurses hold Alex, when they kiss and hug him, I feel really sad because I really hope I can also hold him just like the others do because our Alex is so cute,” she says.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, both clear liquids were placed in separate dishes on a sterile table in the delivery room and were mistakenly switched because they were un-labelled.
Grace told SBS Mandarin News in an exclusive interview that she still feels the after-effects of the epidural gone bad till this day. Even while sitting in her wheelchair, she still feels very stiff and as though all the nerves in her body are constantly in pain.
There are days when she still cannot accept the tragedy that befell her. She has to accept that she will be unable to care for her own son. Her husband Jason not only has to take over that role, he also has to care for her. This is difficult because they are on their own in Australia with no other family members who can help.
Our hearts go out to this family, and we hope they get the help they need and so deserve.
1. Drop in Blood Pressure
Every time your blood pressure drops, it can also affect the blood flow to your baby. According to the American Pregnancy Association, mums will have to be treated with IV fluids, oxygen, and possibly medications, if this happens.
2. Inadvertent Dural Puncture or a ‘Wet Tap’
This occurs when the epidural needle accidentally punctures the membrane that covers your spinal cord. As a result, your spinal fluid leaks out. The result is intense headaches say the American Society of Anaesthesiologists. The mum will need to do a “blood patch” to treat the problem. This involves injecting your own blood into the hole to seal it off.
Despite the very real risk, an infection is highly unlikely because the needles used are always sterile. Your back would also be cleaned with antiseptics. The risk is not high, but whenever there’s an opening in the body, it could potentially allow bacteria to enter and grow. Also, the spine is directly wired to your brain. As rare as it may be, an epidural gone bad could mean an infection to your spinal cord, which then can be a risk to your life.
Epidurals used for more than six hours can lead to fever. In such cases, mum and baby would have to run some tests and be given an antibiotic treatment.
5. Nerve Damage
As scary as this sounds, this injury is only temporary and only lasts a couple weeks. Side effects of nerve damage that last a long time are very rare.
Other not so scary side effects of an epidural gone bad include shivering, itching, or feeling nauseous. Some women get a mild fever or even a headache after an epidural. However, these side effects are usually temporary.
According to SingHealth approximately 40-45% patients opt for epidural pain relief during labour which translates to an annual number of more than 5000 people in KKH.
While epidurals are safe for both baby and mum when administered correctly and by a trained anaesthetist, there still is the possibility of human error. Are you considering pain relief the next time you go into labour? What will you opt for? Let us know in the comment box below.