Family living in a “nightmare," mother says

Teresa Wright
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Melissa Driscoll says her child is suffering brain damage as a result of negligent medical treatment

Melissa Driscoll with her daughter Emma who suffers severe brain damage. Driscoll and her fiancé Danny Roche, pictured here holding Emma, are suing four ER doctors and the province for alleged negligent treatment of their daughter at the QEH in 2011.

Every time Melissa Driscoll hears a child call out ‘Mommy,’ she is filled with sadness.

“It’s like hearing a ghost because that was Emma’s first word and she may never be able to say it again.”

Driscoll and her fiancée, Danny Roche, are suing four emergency room doctors from the QEH and the province for what they allege was negligent medical treatment of their daughter, Emma Roche, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown in early 2011.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

But that didn’t stop Driscoll, Roche their lawyer Raymond Wagner from Halifax and family friend Martie Murphy from detailing their side of the story during a news conference Friday in Charlottetown.

About 80 friends and family attended the event. A large screen displayed photos and videos of a happy, healthy baby girl — images captured before she fell ill on Jan. 30, 2011 and was taken to the QEH.

Emma now has severe brain damage, has no ability to move on her own and can only eat through a feeding tube that has been surgically implanted into her stomach.

The statement of claim, filed June 27, alleges Emma was exposed to a sick child in January 2011. She was eight months old at the time.

Named in the lawsuit are Dr. Peter Noonan, Dr. Kate Ellis-Ghiz, Dr. Pauline Champion and Dr. Mitchell Zelman, the physicians who treated Roche during several visits to the hospital over a two-day period.

According to the statement of claim, after the child fell ill, Driscoll took her to the emergency room at the QEH. She was diagnosed with a fever and upper respiratory infection and the doctor on call told Driscoll to administer Advil and Tylenol and sent them home.

The next evening, Driscoll returned to the ER with Emma, as her cough and coarse breathing persisted.

Driscoll alleges the doctor on call on that night diagnosed Emma with influenza. The doctor requested a consult from the pediatrician on call, who later confirmed the influenza diagnosis. Emma was again discharged.

Less than two hours later, Driscoll returned to the hospital, claiming her daughter’s condition had worsened. The statement of claim says 40 minutes after that, Emma became pale and her lips turned blue. She was diagnosed by the doctor on call at this time with ‘severe croup’ and was administered a mask.

Her respiratory distress continued, however, and a few hours later her heart stopped. It took about 18 minutes to revive her, court documents claim.

She was airlifted to the IWK in Halifax. She was later diagnosed with severe and irreversible brain damage.

There was not a dry eye in the room as these allegations were relayed to media and the crowd of friends and family who attended the news conference Friday.

Driscoll, tears pouring down her face, described in detail how the family has since been left devastated.

“It’s like hearing a ghost because that was Emma’s first word and she may never be able to say it again,” Melissa Driscoll

“My family has been living a nightmare from which it seems we will never wake up,” she said.

“A part of my baby died on Feb. 1st, 2011 and a big part of me died as well.”

She described how simple joys most parents enjoy, like watching their children take their first steps or even simply enjoy an ice cream on a hot summer day no longer exist for their family.

Their lives are now regimented around a strict medication schedule to control things such as blood pressure, she said.

“She has lost the use of her arms and legs and has to struggle to hold her little head up for more than a minute or two. She is unable to eat anything by mouth and is given formula and medication through a feeding tube that has been surgically implanted in her small stomach,” Driscoll said through tears.

“Before Emma’s brain injury, she was a healthy, happy eight-month-old baby… She was crawling, speaking a few words and had even begun to pull herself up to stand. She made us smile every single day. Now even such things as living in a neighbourhood with other young children is a daily torture. To hear kids outside laughing and playing breaks my heart because my little girl will never know that sense of childhood happiness.”

Driscoll and Roche said they wanted to share their account of the events that occurred in order to raise awareness to other parents about their rights to question a doctor’s opinion when their children fall ill.

“As parents we are our children’s advocates. We are the ones who know in our gut when our children are really sick because we are with them every day,” Driscoll said.

“No family deserves to experience the kind of hurt and despair we have but if Emma’s story prevents even one child or one family from this type of experience, then maybe some good may yet come out of this tragic moment in our lives.”

In its statement of defence, the government said it provided a reasonable and appropriate level of care to Emma at all times. It also said any injuries Emma suffered were because of decisions, treatments and procedures explained to the parents, to which they consented.

It went further in saying any injuries were a result of the plaintiffs' negligence, including exposing Emma to a sick child and failing to take all precautions to prevent the spread of the illness to her.

Although the doctors haven't filed their defence yet, they have filed a notice of intent to defend, which gives them extra time.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.




Organizations: Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Halifax

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Recent comments

  • ugh, opinions
    September 04, 2012 - 23:48

    Court procedings, lawyers, building cases...those take time. Dont you think in this case, given all that the public knows at this point of the parents taking care of Emma, of all that goes into that, and trying to do what they can to help Emma get you think they are just sitting at home relaxing and came up with the idea that they could cash in on such a tragedy. Come on people, take your person opinions out of things and realize this is about the baby girl who was once happy and healthy and is now suffering brain damage. Lets let the courts be the judge, not us. Sending support and prayers to this family in need.

  • Interesting
    September 04, 2012 - 23:44

    I find it so interesting how many jump to the conclusion that these parents just want a pay day! Its discusting. I find so many people choose to jump in with their opinions rather than putting themselves in the shoes of others. In this particular case, no, WE (public) have NO idea what this family does each and every day, we know some details, not all. I dont think many of you are doctors, I do know some of you are parents, some of you are islanders or even travelers. Yes, EVERYONE makes mistakes in life, thats a fact. There are good and bad things to say about these doctors or this hospital. Each case is different, so is it fair to judge in general terms. This mother took her child to the QEH three times in a very short period of time, and this is now the outcome, bottom line. Maybe for just one second, take a step back, and just think about baby Emma. See the photos of her as a perfectly normal healthy baby at 8mths old, and see how she lives each day now. Now just based on those facts do you feel>?! Lets take a step back from negativity, send some humane love and prayers to this family, keep your opinions about the legal stuff until things actually go to court. At the end of the day, the importance lies with Emma getthing the most care she can, and clearly the family could use some love and support from the community they live in. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, most definately. But at the end of the day, its not your opinion that is needed, its prayers, support, positivity, and sharing that is needed...and Emma deserves that!

  • not one bit surprised
    September 04, 2012 - 12:08

    This doesn't surprise me one bit. Some doctor's here need to go back to school and take a better look at test results. I was in a car accident last september and was sent home with " Three sprained fingers " ... three days later i got a call from my family doctor saying my hand was broken and they should've put a cast on me. I find it ridiculous how an ER doctor can't pick out a fracture but a family doctor can. almost a year later and my hand is still not healed, nor will it ever be.

  • Melanie
    September 03, 2012 - 22:38

    First I'll say Dr. Noonan is my son's doctor and he receives nothing but stellar care from him. Second, I think everyone is jumping the gun here, calling our Island healthcare into blame. The truth is... sometimes there is no one at fault. Sometimes horrible things happen to good and innocent people. Honestly ask yourself this; one Doctor being negligent, ok fine, it happens. But to say all four doctors were negligent in a case as simple as croupe? Give your head a shake! This family is hurting right now. I don't blame them for sueing. However, I don't think they're right and I don't think they'll win.

  • To Janice
    September 02, 2012 - 11:14

    Agree somewhat with Janice Mac Kinnon. I sincerely pray that the doctors who are teaching future doctors here on our island are highly skilled doctors.We have a few here that could do the job and may it be them who may be doing the teaching.

  • Janice McKinnon
    September 01, 2012 - 21:02

    As a transplanted islander living in US, and work in the medical profession, I always felt the health care on PEI was below average,the doctor's blow people's complaints off unti the patient is near dead or dies.I am so glad that this couple is making these physician's accountable for their actions. Nursing for almost 20 years, I treat patients like family , I would ask each of the those doctors, if that was your child what would you have done ?

  • student of life
    September 01, 2012 - 19:13

    To Colleen: Yes doctors make mistakes. But most learn from there mistakes. Not the CASE FOR AT LEAST ONE OF THESE DOCTORS

  • Common Sense
    September 01, 2012 - 16:31

    Well said, SARAH MONTEATH. I encourage everyone to read Sarah's posting.

    • Totally Agree
      September 01, 2012 - 22:58

      I agree with common sense ...Well said Sarah. My son had Dr.Z and he was awesome to him. Sorry bout your child falling ill but you can't blame the hospitals for what happens in public....

  • sue
    September 01, 2012 - 15:46

    the last doctor that attended the child said she had severe croup,which needs immediate attention say compared to a case of mild croup...if the doctors followed all the proper procedures ,then it would seem unlikely that this tragic event would have occured..the article outlines the treatment. but of course we do not know all the facts .so its hard to say ..but I know as a mother we usually know when something is just not right.,so when the parents took their child to the ER the third time and things went from bad to worse ..of course they want answers and have a right to sue for the damages to thier baby

  • Have to ask
    September 01, 2012 - 13:14

    I just have to ask (aside from extending my sincere condolences to the Driscoll family) Why is the PEI government named in this law suit? If anything, shouldn't it be Health PEI or the QEH? It makes me wonder. I read a Guardian article the other day & along with the team of lawyers was the name 'Martie Murphy'. Hmmmm.... The article then named the 4 doctors, and went on to say that "Ellis-Ghiz is Premier Robert Ghiz's wife" (as if we all don't know that) finally...ahha, I get it. This is a presonal vendeta for Mr. it is common knowledge he has an extreme dislike for the Premier (regardless of the job you think Ghiz is doing). So let's go after the PEI governement in the law suit (completely directed at the wrong people) and try to tarnish his career even more. Very interesting. Makes me think this is more about money & revenge then about finding answers & preventing it from happening again, in my opinion of course.

  • Sharon Kinnee
    September 01, 2012 - 12:48

    Read this very sad story in paper today. My heart goes out to this couple who have pretty well lost their child as they knew her. Right or wrong I strongly disagree with attempts to blame the family in any way for this. They took her to the hospital several times. They arn't Drs and they sought professinal help. All kids get exposed to sick people. We all do all the time. In Walmart, at school, at the Drs. office. That was a ridiculous statement that they should have not exposed her. The type of illness this child had could not be managed at home by the parents. Why wasnt she kept in the hosp.?

    September 01, 2012 - 11:50

    My brother complained of severe stomach pain for close to a year.He was misdiagnosed as to having colitis.He actually had cancer of the small intestine.By the time Island doctors corrected their misdiagnosis the cancer had spread. My brother lasted 3 months past his 45th birthday leaving a wife,a daughter aged 14,a son aged 10 & his birth family.

  • BA
    September 01, 2012 - 11:02

    This is PEI Folks, the Dr's working here did not finish first in their class, otherwise they would not be here. Take a look at all the grave sites on PEI, they are full of Doctors mistakes. How dare anyone blame the parents for causing this type of medical neglect on them. Shame, Shame, Shame. The spokesmen that made the comment that the parents caused this to their child must be Stupid, Stupid, Stupid.

    • colleen
      September 01, 2012 - 12:23

      What an unbelievably ignorant comment. I know for a FACT that Dr Ellis is here BY CHOICE and had the academic standing to work ANYWHERE she chose. Doctors that choose to come and work on PEI are not less than. This was a tragic event, but doctors are only human and they will make mistakes. Also, we don't know all the facts in this situation. The courts will hear the facts and decide on the case. You have no right to chose a side when you don't even know the whole story. So, to you I say "shame shame shame. stupid stupid stupid."

  • lilley
    September 01, 2012 - 10:11

    Good luck to these parents, they are simply the latest victims of the Health system in Charlottetown. Only a series of sucessful multi-million dollar law suits against the system will bring about some sense of responsibilty for callus and incompetent health service in this Province.

  • Feeling for both sides
    September 01, 2012 - 10:04

    I have lived on PEI my whole life and now have 3 children of my own, (2 of which have or have had Asthma), I have taken many trips to the emergency room at the QEH, and while I have had some bad experiences (waiting over 8 hours for stitches), I have also had some tremendously excellent experiences. About a month ago, I went to the emergency as I was having a lot of abdominal pain, my total visit there was 2.5 hours and the doctor on call Dr. Stewart MacKinnon, was an amazing doctor, not only was he very thorough, but I left knowing that I was having to referrals put in, one for an ultrasound and the second for a OB, within a week of seeing this doctor, I had met with the OB and had had the ultrasound, what made this experience even more incredible was that 2 weeks after I had seen him, this doctor took time out of his busy schedule to contact me and make sure I had gotten the issue looked at and was being treated for it. On Sunday, I again found myself at the emergency room with my 4 year old having breathing issues, our whole visit took all of 45 minutes and he was again thoroughly looked over and given exactly what he needed. So even though, I have had bad experiences, these excellent experiences need to be shared as well!!!

  • In Tears
    September 01, 2012 - 09:52

    Saw this on CTV last evening. This is heartbreaking. This couple needs much help and support. It is inhumane for any Government to suggest it is the fault of the parents. They have to live with this tradgety. This is supposed to be a civilized society, the parents have enough heartache without being blamed by our Government. The parents were obviously seeking help by going to the hospital to 4 doctors.

    • Couldn't have said it better.
      September 01, 2012 - 15:25

      I am blown away to hear blame put on these parents by our government.Who says these things?

  • hello ancalagon black
    September 01, 2012 - 09:24

    Hiding important subjects in the dark has gotten no where in most aspects of Life. The truth can be freeing, with all cards on the table. Secrecy and cover ups or whatever always seem to surface eventually. I hope we can crawl out of the dark ages......................... Being secret and living in a hidden away world helps basically no one.............thankfully that way of life is disappearing..........and we can grow...

  • Sarah Monteath
    September 01, 2012 - 09:04

    Listen folks, THIS HAS NOT GONE TO COURT. NOTHING has been proven, including the accusations made by the family or the by the "government" and we have not even heard about what is in the statement of defence from the physicians because it hasn't been filed yet. For the record, if anyone knows how insurance works... the defence mounted by the "government" is not actual from the government. It's government's insurer... like being in a car accident, if the other person sues you, it's your insurance that takes over and goes to court. Not you. Before you make a decision in the court of public opinion, we don't know everything that happened because we don't get to see the patient's chart. We don't know what the physicians did or didn't do to care for Emma when she was brought to emerge. We don't know what tests were/ weren't run, what treatments were or weren't given based on the test results, symptoms or what the parent's were saying. WE (the public) DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THIS except for what the parents have said. And they can say anything. The government, hospital officials and doctors are legally bound by patient confidentiality and cannot defend themselves until this goes to court. Our doctors, nurses and the people who run our hospitals, clinics and health care centres do the very best that they can. These doctors are people too, they have hearts and most have families. I would like to think that they did everything that they could to help Emma based on what the family told them was wrong at the time. I find it interesting that the family has waited over 1 year to decide to sue, especially given that their statute of limitations to so almost ran out. I am not saying that the plaintiff or defendants are in the wrong.... WE DON'T KNOW... we weren't there, we're not doctors so we can't say what they should or should not have done to care for Emma. Sometimes bad things just happen no matter how much you do to try and stop it. Some things in life can't be explained... why do people get cancer, why do people have strokes, why do people have heart attacks... The only time we can make a decision in this case is when all of the FACTS come out. Right now, both sides are JUST MAKING ACCUSATIONS. NOTHING HAS BEEN PROVEN. If you all think that you could do a better job than a doctor, especially an emergency doctor who is dealing with traumas, life and death situations and even people who should be going to their family doctor or a walk-in clinic instead... then go to medical school. This country has a shortage of doctors.

    • Nicole
      September 01, 2012 - 10:37

      Well said Sarah

  • Islander
    September 01, 2012 - 08:37

    There may be some neglect from both sides here. How long was this child sick before the mother decided to make the trip to emergency? If the parents were unhappy with the care they recieved there are 2 other emergency rooms on the island, she could have travelled to one of them for another opinion. Has it been confirmed that what Emma had could have been treated the first emergency visit she had to prevent the brain injury? People never have anything good to say about the health care on the island, people only want something to complain about. Yes this is heartbreaking but I also think that suing 4 doctors and the province is a little extreme.

    • Colleen R
      September 01, 2012 - 21:42

      What is extreme is having to return to the hospital a third time. What is extreme is the pain these parents must feel everyday looking at their daughter suffer. Put yourself in their shoes for half a second. Would it be extreme then?

  • Sylvia
    September 01, 2012 - 08:33

    In 2010 my husband had hernia surgery and was sent home day earlier than was originally planned. After he got home, his appendix burst. Back to ER, opened up, closed again, next day opened again as internal organs were shutting down, eventually surgeon closed incision top & bottom, than finally got whole incision closed. Total surgeries - 5. Total time away from home - 2 months which included C.C.U. in induced coma, surgery floor, and rehab at Prince Edward Home. Surgeon left a scar that looked like something an incompetent meat cutter would do. We had to have nurses come to house for almost 2 months because incision wouldn't heal due to infection. Before the hernia surgery my husband was working every day and when he came home he had to use a walker and his loss of weight was shocking. When he was in C.C.U. I was prepared to be planning a funeral. We have promised each other that if we have to go back to emergency and this incompetent surgeon is on call, he will not be allowed to touch either one of us. When we went for my husband's post-op checkup and I asked this surgeon "how did the appendix get missed", he answered "nothing was mentioned in emergency about the appendix". Considering the hernia was just below the appendix, I find it shocking that in 2010 a surgeon could miss an appendix. I support Emma's parents in what they're doing and I only wish I would have had the stamina and financial resources to sue this surgeon.

    • Suzie C. Mckinnon
      September 01, 2012 - 11:54

      You should have sued and if you still have time a good malpractice lawyer would review the case and not ask for payment up front. A ruptured appendix incision is always left open to heal from the inside out because of the very reason not to infect the surrounding organs and cause a septic abdomen. My question to you was a CT scan done prior to the hernia surgery and was the hernia incarcerated which would mimic some of the same symptoms leaving the diagnosis to a CT scan and the person reading it

  • rocketpeople
    September 01, 2012 - 08:25

    Our hearts are with the Driscolls and the Roches. You are certainly an inspiration to all the rest of us who at times talked of being advocates but were never able to follow through. We will be watching this story as it unfolds and praying for justice for this family. At the same time we will be praying for Emma each day and hoping for any new developments. Miss Emma is very lucky to have such wonderful parents and grandparents. God Bless.

  • Cheddy
    September 01, 2012 - 08:12

    We used to have public participation in our health boards so there was advocacy for the people. Now we have Health PEI with no public input mechanism and a focus against the people. You can bet they- Health PEI and the Ghiz Government- have spent much more time and money defending this case then improving toddler diagnosis at the QEH over the last 18 months. Islanders voted for the Health PEI structure by electing Liberal candidiates to 22 of the 27 seats in the election of October 2011.You cannot seek something and then expect something else. It is not wise nor logical.

  • Thane Adams
    September 01, 2012 - 06:50

    I can't believe the statement of defence (any injuries were a result of the plaintiffs' negligence, including exposing Emma to a sick child and failing to take all precautions to prevent the spread of the illness to her). I know these people and their parents. People, they are good honest and loving people. The medical doctors involed with this should be stricken from their profession. The Ghiz government should stand up for the families involved ( Yeah right). I wish from the bottom of by heart that the Driscoll's get everything they require to care for Emma in the years to come. These doctors should have a hard time sleeping for the rest of their lives.....

  • Ancalagon Black
    Ancalagon Black
    September 01, 2012 - 06:41

    I feel bad for these people and their baby but this seems like a publicity stunt geared toward drumming up public support for their cause and creating outrage at the QEH. Things like this can and should be kept private and taken care of in a seemly manner. Bringing it into the public theater this way will not help their case.

  • Saddened Mom
    September 01, 2012 - 06:34

    My heart goes out to this family. I support this family 100% and wish them best in their battle. I myself had months, and months of battling with the QEH emergency staff. They do not care about "small" illnesses. The only treat the Visibly emergency situations. I have stressed my concern to them on more then one occasion, that just because it was not visible doesn't mean it wasn't severe. A mother knows best when a child is ill. You cannot ask an 8 month old what their other symptons are that may have helped this poor child. These doctors should have taken more care and time with this poor child. Look at all the dignosis they gave...Do they even know how to do their job?? We need more doctors on the island who care about their jobs and less about being paid more then other islanders!! Wishing all the best to this family. My heart and prayers are go out to them!

  • Gotouttadodge
    September 01, 2012 - 03:24

    One of the many reasons I left PEI. The health care is terrible there. I can't even imagine the pain this family is going through. I wish all the best to them and their beautiful little girl.

    • Part-time islander
      September 01, 2012 - 08:36

      My heart goes out to this family for their great loss. But want to comment on the care my husband received at QEH. He presented with chest pain and was IMMEDIATELY taken to a stretcher and received excellent care and attention by the nurses, on-call doctor (one who is named in this case), and the lab and x-ray staff. Having worked in health care myself for almost 40 years, this is high praise.

    • LA
      September 01, 2012 - 13:45

      Your comment is far stupider than the doctors you malign. Congrats. Anyone who thinks that nothing like this ever happens anywhere else, or that doctors who are parents themselves would deliberately neglect a child's serious illness, is either unbalanced or so immature as to be laughable. Nothing is so cartoonlike in nature as to be the uniform evil you are screaming about. The government should not be blaming the parents, but come on. Get some balance and maturity in your opinions instead of being ridiculous.

  • Results of horrible health care
    September 01, 2012 - 01:55

    We have horrible health care in PEI. One of the worst in the country. Many people cannot even get a family doctor. But we have an ineffective, uncaring violating government that could care less about the people. Our health care system has been a huge problem for awhile yet nothing is done to change it. This is a horrible example of the consequences of a failed health care system. It will continue to happen, how many more people have to be harmed before something will be done to change the way our health care is mismanaged and the corrupted government stops abusing and harming the people. This is such a horrible place -no wonder people don't stay. What a devastating loss to this family!!

  • Eveilyn Marsals
    August 31, 2012 - 23:36

    I have lived in 3 different provinces, and my spouse who is american has lived in 3 different sates. We have never recieved worse hospital care than at QEH. I have a permanently disfigured finger due to negligent care, and my husband had his tongue butchered with no pain medication. Thankfully we now have a good family doctor but the health care system in PEI is terrible and none so horrid as that offered at QEH. It is like a third world country hospital. Try getting care at emergency. You will wait 20 plus hours to get treated rudely and negligently. I believe this young couple and hope they triumph over the shocking travesty that is QEH. The doctors involved should be ashamed.

    • Shelley Brown
      September 01, 2012 - 06:31

      Hey Honey - Eveilyn Marsals, the SSH or SSRH in Bridgewater, NS, whatever name it goes under now since losit it's Canadian Hospital Accredidation - IMO- is as worst as any Hospital in Canada AND YES, I Have Lived in 3 US States too,, Califonia where I gave Birth to My Child, Florida & New York and recieved EXCELLENT HEALTH CARE. Eastern Canada, PEI AND N.S SUCK, BIG TIME. Don't these Doctors know They ARE Killing People BECAUSE THEY ARE ! As soon as I began to read This Report the 1st person-Lawyer I thought of WAS RAY WAGNER. Know You have a good Law Firm representing You !

  • Courtney McKinnon
    August 31, 2012 - 21:09

    My heart saddens for poor little Emma and her family for what they're going through. When I was 9 and in grade 4, I started to have slight pains and nausea one evening. Long story short: My conditioning rapidly worsening, and on my fourth trip to emerge, I was rushed into emergency surgery because my appendix had BURST. Understanding first hand how it feels to be severely let down by those (FOUR of those might I add) we trust most in our time of need, and also the painful effects it can have almost twenty years later, I wish Melissa and Emma all the luck in the world. Most of us islanders have had, or know someone who's had, a rough experience at the ER in Charlottetown. Of course many positive ones as well. The problem is there are too many families who are let down by some of the staff and procedures there. Stop putting round-abouts at every corner and straightening roads, among other second rate priorities. Look at this first, PEI. Look at this first. Best of luck to you Melissa!

  • What
    August 31, 2012 - 20:53

    Has it even gone to court?Has it even had a first court appearance? Saying none of the allegations have been proved in court, hard to do either way if no court appearances have been made yet.

    August 31, 2012 - 20:37

    We need some ordinary citizens on an advocacy group. And on task forces concerning health care . Support groups. Public meetings of substance. And greater transparency.And ordinary citizens need to be heard.