EVERETT – Three-year-old Jax is one of those kids who was born happy.
"He's always been super content,” said his mother, Kathy Schons. “Mellow and a little bit shy," said his father, Raul Swain.
But when Jax was barely two, Kathy and Raul said their son got really sick after an immunization. “I picked him up and he was like a wet noodle,” Kathy said, “I can remember…I screamed for Raul.”
Jax had had a seizure and was rushed to Swedish Medical Center in Seattle on August 15, 2011. There, nurses tried to insert an I-V into his tiny veins, but Jax was too dehydrated. According to the medical records, that’s when the doctor told Kathy that he wanted to insert a catheter into a leg vein so that fluids and medications could be administered.
"I think they put the guide wire into the vein first. And then they slide the IV tube over it,” Raul said.
Dr. Michael C. Shannon, who did the procedure, wrote in the medical record that there were “no complications.”
According to Kathy and Raul, Jax stayed in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for several days, undergoing brain scans and a spinal tap, before they got the news that there was nothing wrong and he could go home.
But back at home Jax acted strangely. Sometimes he walked funny.
“He would just stiffen up, then he would be fine and his whole body would relax again. So we went to the neurologist at Children’s and they didn’t find anything wrong,” Kathy said.
Still the odd behavior continued. Raul said Jax would grab his neck and scream out in pain, and then go back to playing as if nothing had happened.
It was while buckling Jax into his car seat on February 29, 2012, that Kathy noticed something on his neck.
“It looked like a cyst on his neck. I was like, ‘That’s really nasty, I’m going to take you to the doctor,'" she said.
The family doctor sent Jax home with antibiotics, but hours later, his parents saw something truly alarming.
“We noticed that there’s a black tip where the cyst was, and it was moving around,” Kathy said.
Her husband said it looked like a thorn poking out from under Jax’s skin.
They rushed Jax to the nearby Everett Clinic, where it became clear he might be in real danger.
“They wouldn’t tell me what was going on, they were just frantically doing things,” Kathy said.
Finally Kathy said she demanded answers and was told, “There’s wires inside your son.”
The x-rays showed two wires inside Jax’s chest with one of them running up into his head.
According to medical records from the Everett Clinic and Children’s Medical Center, the most likely explanation was that a guide wire had been left inside Jax’s leg during the procedure at Swedish six months earlier and that it had broken into two pieces and migrated through his body.
Jax was transferred from the Everett Clinic to Children’s Medical Center where the wires were surgically removed. The short one was 6.5 inches long and the longest one was 13 inches.
Kathy and Raul still cringe to think those wires were inside their little boy for six months.
“It could have punctured his heart, it could have punctured his lungs,” Kathy said.
“It could have poked through, because it was inside the blood vessels, and caused internal bleeding,” Raul said.
Jax was sent home but his parents said he was clingy and withdrawn. And his parents had problems of their own. Child Protective Services was investigating them for child abuse.
“Just having that smear on your name, because of something we didn’t even do,” Kathy said.
CPS eventually closed the investigation, concluding the wires had come from the procedure at Swedish.
Kathy and Raul filed a complaint against the hospital and the doctor alleging medical negligence. They said that Dr. Shannon had been working for 40 hours when he did Jax’s procedure and that Swedish lacked a system to catch the missing guide wire. Swedish has been a leader in the State of Washington in the use of mandatory surgical checklists, but Kathy said there was no checklist for the procedure done on Jax.
“I was just flabbergasted,” Kathy said. “It was just unimaginable to me that they wouldn’t count something that was going into the body,” she said.
Kathy and Raul said they hope Swedish will take another look at how it schedules doctors and will ensure there’s a check list to make sure that nothing is left in a patient after a procedure in which guide wires are used.
Dr. Shannon did not return a phone call requesting comment and Swedish declined to answer questions about the doctor’s hours or about its checklists.
Instead, Swedish provided this written statement:
At Swedish, our top priority is the health and well-being of every patient we serve. We are always evaluating our practices to ensure every patient receives the best care possible. We are unable to provide comment regarding this specific case due to patient privacy concerns and because there is ongoing litigation.
Jax will be four years old in November and every day seems more like the boy he used to be. Kathy and Raul said they’ll never get over what happened, but they hope their son can.
“I hope he forgets; I hope he just moves on and is happy!” Kathy said.