The Trinidad Guardian / A mother of one, an attorney by profession, is seeking to take action against a private medical clinic in South Trinidad for performing a CT head scan in a manner that has caused ongoing severe internal injury in her head, brain and face.
The Sunday Guardian has been told that as a result of severe continuous symptoms since the scan, the patient, who has asked not to be identified at this point, is questioning whether she was improperly exposed to radiation or whether the CT machine at the medical clinic was faulty.
In a letter dated July 7, 2018, to Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, the patient requested “an unbiased, properly conducted investigation and the taking of steps in the interest of health and safety pursuant to the Private Hospitals Act Chapter 29:03.” The Sunday Guardian was told that on June 11, 2018, the patient said she felt “completely well” and had no complaint up until the time immediately following the CT scan. The woman, who suffered from occasional headaches on the left side of the head over a two-month period prior to the CT scan, went for the scan on the advice made of her primary care physician, who was seeking to get answers to her initial complaint.
Contacted by the Sunday Guardian, the woman shared her experience.
“The back of my head, inside the head/brain, felt extremely painful, together with a burning sensation from the top to the base. The sides of my head and forehead all had the same kind of feeling. My throat felt swollen, raw and painful. My nose felt strange…dead and numb…breathing for me became difficult.”
In her letter to Deyalsingh, the woman said two hours after doing the scan she felt ill and began experiencing numbness in the face and upper lip, her two eyes became very dry with a rough feeling when she blinked and her eyes became blood-shot red.
The woman, in her letter, also told Deyalsingh how she noticed “violent involuntarily jerks” occurring in certain parts of her body, including her limbs. “That same night I fell asleep and woke up in the middle of the night and when I opened my eyes and they felt parched. When I looked in the mirror I saw they both were bloodshot. I tried not to panic and drank several glasses of water but still, I felt dry inside and no saliva in my mouth,” the woman said.
“I tried to go back to sleep at about 2 am but each time I closed my eyes I kept seeing a brightness… then the jerking started and intensified, frightening me out of my wits,” she added.
The attorney said later that morning she got up and attempted to get ready for work but found that she was extremely weak and in pain.
“I was forced to lay face flat on the couch of the living room motionless… my body jerking.”
The woman told the Sunday Guardian she contacted her doctor, who contacted a female official at the private hospital.
“It was a question as to whether I was improperly exposed to radiation or whether the CT machine was faulty and this my spouse and I discussed with my doctor, who would have relayed the gravity of what I was experiencing with the private hospital official,” she said.
With her symptoms continuing with intensity, the woman proceeded to speak to the technician and the manager of the CT unit at the private hospital but was only told that “the dosage administered was ‘automatic’ and that the technician does not have any input….there was no elaboration.”
In a bid to seek further medical help, the woman travelled to the United States where she saw a neurologist there who also suggested that an inquiry must be made into the “condition, lifespan and servicing of the machine and skill of technician that did the CT scan.”
“I was told by the neurologist that the brain tissues, meninges, could be damaged,” the patient said.
“I need as much help, maybe expert help and required treatment.
It’s almost as if I have reached that point of desperation and I am pleading with the Minister of Health for help and an intervention. I am also asking for the minister to launch an investigation and act accordingly. I have not been able to carry out my duties mand responsibility as an attorney and as a mother to my son, who needs me.”
An email sent to the founder of the clinic and another official querying the incident and requesting an update and/or pending actions went unanswered.
When contacted for a comment on the case, Deyalsingh said: “No comment, as it is an active investigation.”
In November 2011, the then Cabinet approved a national radiation protection policy. This policy came three months after it was revealed that 223 cancer patients at the Brian Lara Cancer Treatment Centre were overexposed to radiation for a prolonged period.
The policy calls for the establishment of a Radiation Regulatory Authority clearly sets out codes of practice, and also stipulates management requirements for safe practices in the public and private sectors.
On June 29, 2018, the Brian Lara Cancer Treatment Centre (BLCTC) and its owner Medcorp Limited were found negligent in the death of businessman Ricardo “Smokey” McKenzie.
Delivering a 35-page judgment in the Port-of-Spain High Court, Justice Mira Dean-Armorer ruled that McKenzie’s death was caused by a radiation overdose during his treatment at the centre in 2009. She noted that while McKenzie’s doctors suggested that he had five years to live when he was first diagnosed, he only survived for 18 months because of the centre’s negligent treatment.
In her judgment, Dean-Armorer noted that BLCTC admitted that its linear accelerator was miscalibrated during the period of McKenzie’s treatment. She also pointed out that while testifying at the trial, its former clinical director Dr Peter Bovell admitted the centre did not have a senior physicist to operate the machine and it relied on a junior employee who was not certified to do so.
Approximately 200 patients were affected by the miscalibration, with the centre settling claims with most except McKenzie’s and a handful of others, who were awaiting Dean- Armorer’s decision to continue their lawsuits. (See page A6)