WHY DID JUSTIN DIE?

Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan has promised a full-scale investigation into the mysterious death of 14-year-old Justin Mondezie at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) on December 28. He did so in response to calls from the teen’s family who want to know what illness caused his death. Justin’s brother, former journalist Michael Mondezie, called for answers when he delivered the eulogy at the teen’s funeral at the Santa Rosa RC Church, Arima, on Friday.

He said more than anything in the world,  Justin wanted to spend Christmas with his family at their Maloney Gardens home. However, he remained gravely ill throughout the holidays and did not live to see the New Year. Justin’s death certificate states that he died of “acute respiratory distress syndrome lymphomia proliferative disease—under evaluation.” An autopsy done at the EWMSC was inconclusive as to the cause of death and a report is pending.

The family has been told the cause of death will be determined in a month’s time. “Who knew when Justin first got sick about three months ago with what we believed to be a stomach bug, that we would be here today, in this space, saying goodbye,” said Michael Mondezie, who struggled to control his emotions as he gave the eulogy. “And now that this mystery illness has pried him from our embrace. We are all calling for answers.”

He added: “There has been a lot of speculation over the past few days about my brother’s passing. But more than anything else, I believe my brother Justin is reminding us all, through his ordeal, that tomorrow is not promised to any of us.” Justin’s mother, Mona Blackman-Mondezie, was advised by doctors not to attend her son’s funeral. His father, Richard, said when the teen became ill with vomiting and fever in October, he was seen by a private doctor who diagnosed gastritis, an inflammation of the lining of the stomach.

“We thought it was a stomach infection because everything he consumed kept coming back up. He also kept losing weight rapidly, which worried us to no end,” said Richard. Medication prescribed to Justin did not work. He was too ill to attend classes at the Arima North Secondary School and was taken to the EWMSC where doctors also diagnosed gastritis and prescribed Gesol, an oral rehydration salt, along with Panadol for the fever and sent him home.

As the teen’s health continued to deteriorate, his family took him to a private health facility in Arima where blood samples and an A-ray were done but came back negative. Michael said Justin was taken to the EWMSC at least six times but doctors there would simply prescribe medication, which his body kept rejecting, and send him home. He was not warded until December 17 when his health took a turn for the worse. “He started bringing up blood and again we had to take him back to Mt Hope,” Michael said.

A team of five specialist doctors worked on the critically ill teen around the clock in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit but Justin’s condition never improved. “His major organs started to fail,” Michael said. As the teen fought for his life, even obtaining a dialysis machine was delayed and when the machine eventually arrived, it was not working. Michael believes his brother would have lived if he had been properly treated in the initial stages of his illness

“The doctors … the first responders who treated Justin did not take his complaint seriously. They kept saying that it was a good thing he was losing weight and he should not be in the hospital, but in school. They trivialised his illness,” he said.

Khan: I am really upset

The Health Minister said he remembered  seeing Justin when he visited the EWMSC just before Christmas with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to distribute gifts to sick children on the wards. “I recommended that the teenager be given an urgent CT scan since the doctors were not finding anything wrong with him. All the tests were coming back normal,” he said. Khan added that he was “not ashamed to say that” Justin probably died as a result of gross negligence.

“I think this matter has to be dealt with. I am really upset. I intend to take this very seriously. The person involved in the treatment of this child was supposed to be a little more vigilant in their approach and investigate what was wrong. People just do not feel sick like that,” he Khan, who extended condolences to the Mondezie family, expressed regret that there was only so much he could do as a minister.

He said he hopes hospital staff involved in “seeing after cases like these understand the pain and suffering that people go through by means of delay and procrastination.” The minister said whenever he attempts to apply pressure to chairmen of regional health authority boards to get their staff to perform, he runs the risk of the unions coming after him. However, he said, very soon he will read the riot act to all hospital staff.

“They have to be shaken up,” he said.

 

Extracted From: Trinidad Guardian Newspaper

Sunday, January 5, 2014

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