Meredith Essenburg

As told by Meredith's Mother, Wendy Essenburg

Meredith was born full term on 9/16/09. She was a surprise since I was 43 (at time of conception) and all attempts to become pregnant had failed since our son was born 5 years previous (including 4 miscarriages). In April/May of 2009, we learned that Meredith had a heart defect that was common in babies with Down syndrome, and then that was confirmed via amniocentesis. I struggled so much with this diagnosis. Until she was born- then it no longer mattered. She was our precious girl!

Meredith had complications from the start, more so than is typical under these circumstances. She was in the NICU for 21 days where she was cared for beautifully. Most of the reason she was kept so long was because of feeding issues- she didn’t eat enough so was fed primarily through a feeding tube.
It was imperative that she eat to grow strong and big so that she could have her heart surgery. Finally they taught my husband and I how to feed her through a tube so that we could bring her home. Which we did on her 3 week birthday.

Two days later at her first Pediatrician appt, she was found to have a high fever. I was told with infants under 2 months, they have to go to the hospital with such a fever. We could not return to our original hospital because they don’t have isolation rooms in the NICU- we had to go to a different one within the same system. Once there, the pediatric cardiologist examined Meredith and put her on 2 heart medications to help her heart pump stronger. She would have needed heart medication at some point anyway before her surgery- this was just early.

The day after her readmission, I spent about 6 hours with Meredith. I fed her- she did great without the feeding tube! I was excited. We snuggled and napped together. I left around 4:30pm to have dinner with my husband and son, feeling hopeful- her fever was lower, she had color back in her skin and she ate pretty well.

Around 7pm, I received a call saying that my daughter was in critical condition and that we better get down there. They wouldn’t let us anywhere near her room at first, said they were working on her but their faces said it all. No one could tell us why her heart had slowed down/stopped. It was not expected even with her heart defect. We held her as she grew gradually colder. My heart broke into a million pieces. I loved her so very much.

The day after her death, we were called by a NICU doctor who said they were releasing her body to the county Medical Examiner, rather than the funeral home, because they suspected that she had been given too much of one of the heart medications and it had to be determined whether this caused her death.

It was confirmed 2 days following her death that she had been given 2-3x the amount of Digoxin she was intended to have. The attending doctor rewrote the cardiologists prescription, adding “/kg”, but not reducing the amount.

Further, all systems in place to catch these errors failed- in the pharmacy and nursing. My baby girl, our longed for and much prayed for second child, should be alive. My broken heart exploded again.