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Mistake at Tripler ruins infant's brain

A child born healthy is put in a permanent vegetative state

By Debra Barayuga

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Izzy came out screaming

Izzy came out screaming his way into a new world and in perfect health. That would be the last time his parents would hear him cry.

Islam Yasin Ibn Saddiq was 7 pounds, 5 ounces when he was delivered at 8:10 a.m. on Jan. 14 by scheduled C-section in Operating Room 10 at Tripler Army Medical Center.

One minute after birth, a neonatologist decided to administer oxygen “to pink him up.” She learned 42 minutes later that she was pumping his tiny lungs with carbon dioxide.

They immediately switched him to oxygen, but the damage to his brain was too great.

“It didn’t have to happen, which is the worst part,” said Dwight Peterson, 31, an Army sergeant and emergency medical technician who stopped videotaping the birth and could only watch helplessly as his newborn son deteriorated before his eyes.

“It didn’t have to happen,” he repeated.

Now all he and his wife, Shalay, and three other children can do is pray for a miracle.

“It’s only by the grace of God that he’s still here,” said Shalay Peterson, 30, a medical assistant at a pediatrician’s office. But then, baby Izzy was a miracle even before he was born, she said.

The high school sweethearts from Philadelphia tried for seven years to conceive a child and went through three cycles of in-vitro fertilization. She became pregnant last April with their fourth child.

His name translates to “one who submits to the will of God,” chosen to reflect the faith and patience that helped them conceive, they said.

He was their miracle, Shalay Peterson said. “This was the new life for our family.”

Six weeks after he was born, Izzy lies in a vegetative state, attached to tubes at Tripler, his family almost always nearby.

He is fed through a tube in his stomach. He breathes through a tube in his throat. He cannot blink, swallow or cry. And he wears sunglasses to protect his eyes from light.

“That’s the way he’ll be for the rest of his life — for as long as he lives,” said Dwight Peterson.

He will need round-the-clock care for the rest of his life as well, care that his parents are not qualified to provide. The cost of that care will reach into the “millions and millions” of dollars, said Rick Fried, an attorney who filed a claim for the parents against the federal government.

All Izzy’s parents and siblings can do — and will do, no matter what — is love him. Hug him. Kiss him. Hold him.

Tripler officials issued a statement yesterday saying only that they are still investigating the incident and have taken corrective action.

“There is an enormous sense of sorrow among the staff, and our hearts go out to the family as we grieve with them,” the statement said. “Our focus at this time is to continue to support the family any way we can. We are very sorry this happened.”

The Petersons said Izzy has been receiving excellent care. Once he was stabilized, a doctor at the hospital explained the error and told them it would not happen again. He said they did not realize their mistake until they went to change the tank.

“So the whole time they’re trying to bring him back to life, they’re choking him — bringing him back to life and choking him at the same time,” Shalay Peterson said, wiping away tears.

They were told changes had been made in how oxygen is delivered.

“I wouldn’t want anybody else to go through what we went through,” she said, “but it’s too late for my baby.”