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Baby Dies After Contracting Legionnaires’ Disease in Hospital

Published on January 7, 2016

Ryland Joseph was a happy baby from birth. The only son of Rodd and Kellie Joseph, Ryland was the center of their universe. But a mere four months after he was born, he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome. His parents were told his only chance for survival was a bone marrow transplant. They chose the highly regarded Benioff Children’s Hospital at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center to do the procedure.

The operation was successful, but a few days later Ryland’s health took a serious turn for the worse and he died a few days later on May 16, 2013. You can imagine how shocked and devastated Ryland’s parents were to find out that Ryland didn’t die from his operation or his rare genetic disorder – he died from Legionnaires’ disease, which he contracted in his hospital room.

Most people get Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in mist from water that contains the bacteria. This can cause severe pneumonia for most, but with a weakened immune system, the bacteria can be deadly. This is what happened to Ryland.

Due to Ryland’s weak immune system, he was placed in a special unit away from other people and potential sources of infection. In these rooms, the hospital had a policy prohibiting baths or showers in these rooms, which would have prevented the spread of Legionnaires, but Ryland’s room contained a shower. The problem with this is that the Legionella bacteria can be contracted through the inhalation of microscopic water droplets, and hospital cleaning personnel violated policy by turning on the shower, causing Ryland to inhale those microscopic droplets.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Legionella is a type of bacterium found naturally in fresh water. When people are exposed to the bacterium, it can cause illness including Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever. This bacterium grows best in warm water, like the kind found in hot tubs, cooling towers (air-conditioning units for large buildings), hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, and decorative fountains. People are exposed to Legionella when they breathe in a mist or vapor (small droplets of water in the air) containing the bacteria.

Since the Legionella bacteria thrives in large plumbing systems and cooling towers, hospitals are at risk of having this bacteria and should test their water accordingly. UCSF Medical Center admitted Ryland contracted Legionnaires’ Disease in their facility, but added that they had been using Legionella mitigation practices consistent with industry standards, such as heating water to a certain temperature as it comes into the building from the city. However, they added that they have put more measures in place since Ryland’s death such as point of use filters in the rooms of at-risk patients, adding tankless water heater when possible, and adding disinfectant injection points to the water system.

Many Americans put their faith in the professionalism of hospitals, doctors, and staff, but that faith is not always deserved. Medical mistakes happen in U.S. hospitals every day, and hundreds of thousands of people suffer and die as a result. If you or somebody close to you has been injured or killed by a medical error that can be attributed to hospital or physician negligence, contact the expert Phoenix medical malpractice attorneys at Knapp & Roberts today to schedule a free consultation to learn about your legal options, 480-991-7677.

Full story about Ryland found on NBC News.

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