Fatal Tonsillectomy: Detroit Family Plans To Sue Hospital For Nine-Year-Old Girl’s Death After Routine Surgery

Tonsillectomy is a very common surgical procedure for young children. Statistics show that about 530,000 such operations are done on children each year, and fatalities in relation to these surgeries are virtually unheard-of. But a Detroit family is planning to sue a local hospital after their nine-year-old daughter died just hours after undergoing the procedure.

A report from the Detroit News detailed how Detroit resident Sonia Gambrell took her daughter Anyialah Greer to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Troy on December 8, to undergo a routine tonsillectomy. This procedure was expected to take just 40 minutes to complete, though Gambrell admitted to feeling “extremely nervous” ahead of the operation.

Just three hours after the surgery was completed, Anyialah was dead, having suffered cardiac arrest following the procedure. And with almost a month having gone by, her family isn’t quite sure what had caused the operation to turn out the way it did.

“I really wish I’d given her a kiss now,” Gambrell told the Detroit News. “I still feel like I’m dreaming. Like, ‘Where is my daughter?’ Someone is going to come up and tell me it’s all over. That this was a mistake. She can’t die from something they do every day.”

A separate report from the San Francisco Chronicle looked at what happened after Anyialah Greer was discharged from the Children’s Hospital. According to the report, the girl was “in and out of sleep” after the operation, and Gambrell was driving around, looking for a pharmacy that carries the painkiller oxycodone, which was prescribed to her daughter but is hard to find on account of government regulations on narcotics. After trying in vain to find a pharmacy, Gambrell noticed that Anyialah had become unresponsive.

“She didn’t do nothing. I touched her chest and she fell forward. Her skin was cold.”

The results of Anyialah Greer’s autopsy may only be in several weeks from now. But earlier medical reports hint that the nine-year-old girl may have had an undetected heart condition or an obstructed airway. She may have also suffered from complications after being administered anesthesia for the tonsillectomy.

With the cause of her daughter’s death still undetermined, Gambrell is accusing Dr. Bianca Siegel, the ear, nose, and throat specialist who operated on Anyialah, of wrongfully discharging the girl as she wasn’t in stable condition after the procedure. Gambrell’s fiancée Dazmon Ellington added that the couple was convinced by the doctor that “things were OK” post-surgery.

In a statement made to the Detroit News, attorney James J. Harrington IV said that the Children’s Hospital should have not released Anyialah Greer due to her post-surgery condition.

“Under federal law, you can’t discharge people unless they’re in stable condition. I don’t know how she could be considered stable when she died just hours after discharge. What was the anesthesiologist doing? What happened in the (operating room)? What did the nurses know? As far as I’m concerned, every single person who looked at this kid has to answer questions. I am furious about this.”

According to the Detroit News report, Gambrell and Harrington are preparing to file legal action against Children’s Hospital parent Detroit Medical Center, though Gambrell had waived her privacy rights. This would permit the DMC to talk about the case without running afoul of the U.S. government’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

When pressed about Anyialah Greer’s fatal tonsillectomy, the DMC and Dr. Siegel chose not to comment on the matter. The Detroit News said that the institution chose to issue a prepared statement saying that it is “deeply saddened” by what had happened, and is “working with the family” on the matter.

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