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Baby burned in Hospital accident

A critically ill baby undergoing a surgical procedure at the Duke University Hospital pediatric intensive care unit caught fire June 2. The patient sustained burns covering over 10 percent of its body.

State regulators from the Division of Facilities Services initiated an investigation into the cause of the fire June 5.

The fire, which began as medical staff prepared to connect the child to equipment in the PICU, burned a sterile paper drape over the incision site, in addition to some fabric bedding and a blanket, said Hospital CEO Dr. William Fulkerson in an e-mail to the Hospital's staff.

Jim Jones, spokesperson for DFS, said the Hospital reported the incident Wednesday and added that he does not know how long the investigations will take.

Suffering from severe heart and lung ailments, the baby was in the PICU to be hooked up to an artificial lung machine, which can take over the work of the heart and lungs until the organs are capable of functioning on their own.

This treatment, called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, involves inserting tubes into large blood vessels and pulling unoxygenated blood out from the patient to be oxygenated by a machine.

It was during the surgical procedure that the medical staff saw the fire, immediately responding by dousing it with sterile saline solution and extinguishing it within seconds, the Hospital reported.

Fulkerson said the procedure and treatment are routinely performed in the PICU.

The affected equipment has been removed and is being evaluated to determine the cause of the fire, although the maintenance on the equipment involved was up to date at the time of the incident and had no recorded history of problems, Fulkerson said.

"The equipment has been tested and is functioning properly," he said.

According to the explicit wishes of the patient's parents, additional details regarding the child's information and current condition have not been released.

"The child's family was informed and provided with full details," Fulkerson said in the e-mail. "Our concerns and attention are being directed to serving the medical needs of the patient, and we are working to support the family."

Fulkerson added that the family will not be responsible for any medical costs associated with the incident, which comes almost four months after Hospital surgeons gave transplant patient Jesica Santillan a heart and lungs of the wrong blood type.

Santillan's body rejected the organs and she later died after a second transplant.


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