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Family mulls lawsuit in death of 16-month-old

Feb. 27, 2013 - 07:08AM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 27, 2013 - 07:08AM  |  
Caylee Hall, whose photo appears on a website in her honor, died at an Army hospital after what her mother says was inadequate treatment.
Caylee Hall, whose photo appears on a website in her honor, died at an Army hospital after what her mother says was inadequate treatment. (Via Facebook)
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The wife of an airman whose toddler daughter died at an Army hospital in Colorado said staff there could have saved her baby's life, but they did not take her daughter's illness seriously enough.

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The wife of an airman whose toddler daughter died at an Army hospital in Colorado said staff there could have saved her baby's life, but they did not take her daughter's illness seriously enough.

Timika Hall's daughter, 16-month-old Caylee Hall, died Aug. 22 at Evans Army Community Hospital on Fort Carson. The girl was taken to the hospital twice in one day and waited to be examined for nearly an hour, her mother said.

"My reason for wanting to come forward is I want people to know what happened to Caylee," Hall told Army Times.

She launched a petition on the White House website to increase training for staff at military hospitals that called for 25,000 signatures. She managed to get more than 1,700 signatures, she said, before the petition expired.

"I don't know if I have the energy to do another one," she said. "It's so hard to find people to care."

She said, signatures or no, she still wants Defense Department hospitals to be better equipped to handle the kinds of trauma events that strike service members' family members.

She acknowledged she is considering a lawsuit.

"They let my baby suffer, and they show no remorse," she said. "We know no amount of money will bring Caylee back, but we want accountability. We want answers."

In a letter to Hall dated Nov. 1, hospital commander and physician Col. John McGrath said Caylee had an illness that was "difficult to diagnose." He said basic tests would not have revealed the illness, and he offered condolences for her loss. Hall provided a copy of the letter to Army Times.

Hall said an autopsy showed her daughter had acute lymphocytic myocarditis. "The staff of Evans Community Hospital was deeply affected by this experience," McGrath wrote. "We remain committed to continuing to improve our care."

Stacy Neumann, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said the case has been reviewed, but the hospital is not allowed to release or discuss its findings under federal law and Army regulations.

"The Command remains deeply saddened by the Hall Family's loss, and we will continue to do everything possible to support the Family during this difficult period," she said in an email to Army Times. "The healthcare team at Evans Army Community Hospital consists of highly qualified medical professionals who are experts in their field. Their commitment to providing the best care possible is unmatched, and while this was a tragic loss, we remain confident in their abilities as medical providers."

According to Hall, Caylee had been sick with nausea and a slight fever for a week and had been to a doctor. She was diagnosed with a bilateral ear infection, prescribed an antibiotic and seemed to improve.

But when Caylee's symptoms suddenly worsened Aug. 21, her parents' nightmare began. Her father, Air Force Staff Sgt. Clifford Hall of Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., took her to the hospital that morning and was sent home with nausea medication for Caylee.

When Caylee's symptoms worsened again, the couple returned to the hospital at midnight Aug. 22, where they say they told a nurse clearly about Caylee's symptoms. Caylee was very sleepy, was vomiting, and she had not wet a diaper since the afternoon.

"We were very descriptive," Timika Hall said.

The family waited more than 20 minutes before being taken into an emergency room at 12:45 a.m. A nurse gave Caylee a cursory look and left the room, Timika Hall said. Another 20 minutes went by, and Caylee went limp and passed out.

Hospital records state a nurse went into Caylee's room at 1 a.m. and woke her up easily.

Timika Hall insists that no one came. Instead, she went to the nurses' station twice to plead for help from a doctor.

"I said, ‘Please come. My daughter passed out,' " Timika Hall said. "I started pacing in front of the doorway, and there was a doctor chit-chatting. I gave her a look and she finally came in."

At this point, the accounts agree: At 1:20 a.m., a doctor came into the room, realized Caylee was badly ill and called on medical teams to resuscitate her. They worked for an hour, to no avail.

"It was too late," Timika Hall said.

She said the entries in her daughter's medical records differ from what she and her husband experienced. She has filed a formal request to change the records.

She insisted the nurse took her daughter's temperature, which was normal, but never took her pulse. She said the intake nurse should have started an IV and run blood tests on her daughter.

Acute lymphocytic myocarditis is uncommon but potentially life-threatening, according to a recent study. It typically manifests as a viral infection that attacks the heart. It can present itself in a variety of ways and be difficult to detect.

"I don't care what they say: Lymphocytic myocarditis is treatable," Timika Hall said. "My daughter had a chance."

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