Re: STARS in question for Manitoba son’s brain damage

The italicized writing below is paraphrased from CTV news’ website. My opinion is written below the link. The link also leads to the video report. 

The Manitoba family of a once-vibrant two-year-old is demanding to know went wrong during an airlift to hospital that left the little boy with brain damage. 

On May 2, Morgan Moar Campbell suffered a seizure and was taken to Brandon Regional Health Centre. Doctors didn’t have the equipment to diagnose him, so they put him on an air ambulance flight to Winnipeg.

Doctors induced a coma and inserted a breathing tube to help the boy to breathe.

Morgan Moar Campbell

A seizure on May 2 sent Morgan Moar Campbell to Brandon Hospital. Without the equipment needed to diagnose him, Morgan was put on a STARS air ambulance flight to Winnipeg. Family said he is now brain damaged.

Somehow, during the flight on the air ambulance run by STARS, the boy’s breathing tube became dislodged, depriving him of oxygen for around 30 minutes.

The boy’s father, Blair Campbell, says Morgan was once an energetic, smiling child but can no longer walk or talk. While he sits up and opens his eyes, he doesn’t appear to recognize any of his relatives, the family says.

“They don’t know what they took from us,” Blair told CTV Winnipeg.

STARS, which stands for Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society, is conducting an internal investigation to find out what happened.

“I know they’re there to protect us, but something happened in that ambulance. Why is it so hard to tell us?” the mother asked.

Opinion Time. 

First, I am sorry for this family’s struggle. I hope the battle they are about to embrace was not the result of a medical or instrumental mistake. And I hope to h*ll the medics crossed all the t’s and dotted the i’s on their paperwork that day. Admittedly mistakes do happen- it’s one of the downsides of humans having to medically treat each other. But for a moment, I will stick out my neck for all the other professionals out there and try to fill in some of the holes the media has decidedly left out in their never ending search for viewer ratings.


1. During transport, patients are accompanied by medics. (Go on, say it, *duh*). In both the helicopter and the ambulance a medical professional is never more than 1.5 feet from your person. That’s right, whether you have SARS, are squirting blood everywhere, or are a really big jerk…you are always within arms reach of at least one person willing/trying to help you. You don’t just get to chill out in the back by yourself.

2. For the most part, medics care about people and medicine (the practice, not just the drugs). If medics didn’t care about people, they likely wouldn’t go back for all that extra, expensive, grueling, schooling in order to further their career and get on with STARS. Generally, this also means advanced and critical care paramedics are not a lazy breed.

3. If you are an unstable patient (like the child above) we are required to check your vital signs every 5 minutes. One of the things we check is called pulse oximetry. Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive method for monitoring the oxygen saturation of a patient’s hemoglobin (blood).You know that little alligator mouth you get put on your finger at the hospital? That thing. This is just one way we would know if your “breathing tube” had come dislodged. In the case of Morgan, the medics would also by monitoring capnography- how much C02 is leaving your body when you exhale. When done properly, the medics would have known something was up with Morgan’s breathing tube within a MAXIMUM of five minutes. No surprise here, this standard practice is to prevent brain damage in serious patients.

4. If you are unstable, you will be hooked up to a “heart monitor”. You bet STARS has a really fancy one too. If this child was getting no oxygen for 30 minutes…do your really think his heart would still be beating? How about I hold a pillow over your face for 30 minutes and we test it out! Pretty sure the heart monitor alarms will start going ape-sh*t.

(So far there are 4 fail safes I have mentioned: live medically trained professional, pulse oximetry, capnography, heart monitor).

5. If Morgan was being transported by STARS, that means he was very ill before he boarded the helicopter. So ill that the doctor’s at his hospital didn’t know how to help him. So ill in fact that the doctors had to induce a coma after a seizure so severe it could lead to brain dead. Wait…am I saying maybe he was brain damage was developing before transport? Yes. Yes I am. In this profession you quickly learn that bad things happen to good people.

6. Even if the breathing tube became dislodged, I highly doubt the medics said, “Oh well” and washed their hands of it. In my experience, Medics WANT to practice their skills. And as far as I know, STARS medics are trained vigorously in the challenging technique of inserting a “breathing tube”. It is challenging because equipment for it’s insertion is made in one way, and people’s anatomical variations are limitless. A difficult intubation is not necessarily a reflection of poor skill. (By the way, how do they know it was dislodged for 30 mins?…Pretty sure you need a court order to look at the PCR- aka- patient care report).

7. So why are the STARS medics having such a hard time explaining what happened to the family then? Two simple reasons. A) Paramedics as a rule do not diagnosis patients. We like to have a pretty good idea of what is going on; in fact experienced medics (like those on STARS) probably have a whole bunch of very good ideas. But until the patient’s doctors do a bunch of fancy tests, combined with their medical knowledge, and their doctor friends’ knowledge, and maybe a web MD resource or two, a diagnosis cannot be made. B) With so many people looking to sue and nail each other to the wall, I think I’d wait for my union rep/lawyer before speaking too.

So thanks to the layman’s media, there has been more misguided suspicion instilled into the public in regards to EMS. Like gaining people’s trust on their worst days wasn’t hard enough already.

Oh, and if after the investigation it is found that the peopling blaming STARS medics are wrong…I hope the apology results in riveting headlines too. Right. Get the facts before slandering a profession’s reputation just because you are angry at the injustice of a little boy being sick. Life isn’t fair- just ask a medic who gets that reality check every day.

P.s Today my sympathies are with ORNGE and the families of the victims lost. Thanks for all they did, and all you will continue to do in the face of heartbreak and adversity.


One thought on “Re: STARS in question for Manitoba son’s brain damage

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