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Investigate the death of 2 year-old Rowan, and stop the unnecessary use of anesthesia on vulnerable children like him.

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Rowan was the happiest and friendliest two-year old one could ever meet.  He greeted strangers with a bright smile and exuberant “Hi!”, and gave giant hugs to family and friends.  He loved music, animals, and wagon rides, but most of all he loved his big sister.  Rowan was also not your “typical” child, he had Williams syndrome, a genetic condition that can be characterized by developmental delays and health issues, including cardiac disease.  Despite his condition, Rowan and his family met each day with pure joy and went on many adventures together, traveling to foreign countries, camping in the wilderness, hiking the hillsides of southern California and kayaking the barrier islands of Florida.  

Unfortunately, Rowan died last December while in the care of physicians at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.  Rowan’s diagnosis of William Syndrome had led to a year-long push by doctors for diagnostic testing.  Rowan’s parents had concerns about the risk of anesthesia and avoided procedures that required putting Rowan under.  However, each of Rowan’s doctors downplayed his parents’ concerns, admitting to only a minimal risk of complications.  Rowan’s parents eventually consented to an anesthetized CT angiogram to investigate any unknown heart abnormalities only after being told the real risk was of Rowan collapsing and dying on the playground (simply because he has Williams syndrome) if they didn’t do the procedure.  On the day of the procedure, the anesthesiologist once again reassured Rowan’s parents that she was well-versed in the anesthetic risk and she was not concerned for Rowan.  A few hours later, Rowan was gone.  While undergoing the induction of anesthesia, Rowan became hypotensive and bradycardiac, and suffered cardiac arrest. 

Rowan’s anesthesiologist called his parents that night suggesting that Rowan suffered cardiac arrest due to the stress of crying during the procedure, and that his death was unrelated to the anesthesia.  The hospitals official statement claims that Rowan died from a "pre-existing condition”, and that his death was not due to "procedural complications”.  However, after months of doing their own research, Rowan’s parents have discovered a number of published medical reports and case studies all documenting that  William Syndrome patients like Rowan have the highest risk of sudden death under anesthesia.   In fact, many of the case studies documented eerily and sadly parallel Rowan’s ill-fated induction and sudden death.  Rowan was treated as a low-risk patient, when published medical knowledge suggested he be treated otherwise. 

Rowan did not have to die that day.  All of the research Rowan’s parents found was readily available to his doctors prior to Rowan’s death.  His parents also have subsequently learned that play-therapy is now available for many types of diagnostic tests, and that anesthesia is not necessary.  Had his parents been given an informed and accurate assessment of the risk involved, and the alternatives available to them, they would not have consented to Rowan having anesthesia for a CT scan. 

After his death, Rowan’s parents were promised by Rady Childrens Hospital that all of their inquiries would be met in an “open and transparent” manner.  This has not been the case, as getting the information they seek has been an uphill battle for his parents.  Now, nine months after his death, neither Radys nor the doctors responsible for Rowan’s care have not been held accountable for their negligence in their treatment of Rowan.  Rowan's parents have suffered the greatest loss a parent can withstand; now they are fighting to keep other parents from suffering the same loss.  Please stand with them and tell the California Health Department to investigate Rady Children’s Hospital and hold the doctors accountable for Rowan’s death, and to stop the unnecessary use of anesthesia on vulnerable children like Rowan.  Please do this in memory of Rowan, and in support of Rowan’s family.

 

For more information about Rowan and his family’s struggle for justice, visit: www.rowansmile.me



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