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Infant’s heartbeat abnormal, coroner told

Thursday, 24th May, 2012

By Andrew Robertson

A two-year-old boy’s heart rhythm was “erratic” soon after he came out of surgery at the Broken Hill Base Hospital, a nurse told a coronial inquest into the child’s death yesterday.

Registered nurse Susan Thomas was working in the recovery ward on July 11, 2008 when Leonard Crowe was brought in after having 13 teeth removed and six others filled under general anaesthetic.

The Aboriginal boy, who had a history of breathing problems which required treatment in Adelaide, later died in the hospital without regaining consciousness.

The inquest, which began hearing from witnesses in the Local Court this week, aims to establish, among other things, how the boy died and whether events at the hospital contributed to his death.

Ms Thomas told the inquest that anaesthetist Dr Philip Rosewarne accompanied Leonard as a porter brought the boy into the recovery ward on a bed.

She said Leonard was wearing an oxygen mask and she assumed he was getting air but when heart monitor leads were connected she noticed an “erratic and fast heart rhythm”.

“It was not a normal heart rhythm,” Ms Thomas told the inquest.

She said Dr Rosewarne then used a stethoscope to check his heart and she recalled him saying there was no pulse.

Ms Thomas said she then commenced heart compression while Dr Rosewarne gave him breaths from an oxygen bag.

The inquest also heard that Ms Thomas later ran to the paediatric ward to get a paediatric defibrillator pad because none could be found in the recovery ward.

The inquest also heard from another nurse, Kelly Dart, who knew Leonard from when he had spent time in the hospital’s paediatric ward where she used to work.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Ian Bourke, asked Ms Dart who was also present during attempts to revive Leonard, whether she thought it surprising that the boy would have been put under general anaesthetic given his recent history of breathing problems.

Ms Dart said she was not qualified to answer the question.

Up to 30 witnesses are expected to give evidence at the inquest which continues until tomorrow before adjourning to Sydney where it will resume in November for another four days.

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