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Parents sue Western Md. hospital over teenage son’s death

The parents of a 19-year-old who died of an aortic dissection are suing Garrett Regional Medical Center for allegedly failing to diagnose the condition when he visited the emergency room days before his death.

Josiah A. Friend went to the emergency room at GRMC on July 24, 2017, with severe chest pain that had migrated to his arm, neck and abdomen, according to the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore Friday. Friend was born with a heart defect for which he had childhood surgery and was in the care of a cardiologist.

Friend’s symptoms were signs of an aortic dissection, a tear in the inner lining of the aorta, which can cause major damage to organs and rupture, causing a massive hemorrhage, according to the complaint. Friend’s heart defect placed him at an increased risk for defects of the aorta, according to the complaint.

A physician’s assistant and doctor were assigned to treat Friend and both were allegedly aware of his medical history, but he did not receive a CT scan despite his past heart surgery and symptoms, according to the complaint. Friend received pain medication and, after several test results came back, he was discharged.

Attorney Emily C. Malarky said the standard of care for someone with Friend’s history and symptoms required the ordering some kind of imaging, such as a CT scan.

“It’s all it would have taken was a CT scan that would have shown this weakness in his aortic wall and he would have been in surgery, very promptly,” she said.

Friend had been to the Garrett Regional Medical Center emergency room before and his medical history was known to the staff there, according to Malarky, of Bekman Marder & Adkins LLC in Baltimore.

Friend was told to return to the emergency room if his pain got worse. The pain continued but did not worsen and, on July 31, his father discovered that he had died in his sleep, according to the complaint. The cause of death was an aortic aneurysm.

Malarky said Friend’s parents are grieving the loss of “the baby” of the family.

“It’s very difficult for any parent to lose their child,” she said. “Parents always think that nothing’s going to happen to their children.”

The complaint alleges negligence by the hospital, physician’s assistant and doctor and wrongful death.

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