Family of 14-year-old girl seeks damages after ‘catastrophic’ brain injury

The family of a McGuire Middle School student is seeking monetary damages in excess of $10 million from the Lakeville Area School District alleging that its school nurse committed medical malpractice causing Aaliyah Bowen, 14, to suffer a catastrophic and permanent brain injury that has left her in a persistent vegetative state.

In the lawsuit filed in Minnesota U.S. District Court on Sept. 3, the parents of Aaliyah – Marquetta Silva and Kenyatta Bowen – allege that Aaliyah went to the nurse’s office on April 16 complaining of an asthma exacerbation, was treated, but was told to return to physical education class where she lost consciousness and was hospitalized.

The district has 21 days to formally respond to the lawsuit in U.S. District Court. It said in a statement that it is not responsible for Aaliyah’s injuries.

“Lakeville Area Schools are deeply saddened by the medical incident regarding one of our students last April. We express our deepest sympathy for the student and family. The district takes student health seriously and abides by medical protocols and emergency response procedures. It is our position that the Lakeville Area Schools are not responsible for the injuries outlined in the complaint,” according to a statement.

The lawsuit charges the district and its nurse with violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Human Rights Act.

The lawsuit says the defendants were deliberately indifferent to Aaliyah’s need for reasonable accommodations that would not have placed an undue burden on the district.

The family said the school had knowledge of the instructions from Aaliyah’s treating pulmonologist’s Asthma Control Plan regarding close respiratory monitoring during asthma exacerbations, promptly providing additional treatment and testing to determine recovery prior to discharge. The family said the school had medical excuses for Aaliyah from class during asthma exacerbations.

The lawsuit said the school had a Nov. 1, 2018, note from Aaliyah’s treating pulmonologist specifically instructing: “During asthma exacerbations, Aaliyah requires frequent neb treatments and close respiratory monitoring until back to her baseline.”

The lawsuit says the school’s Health Office Visit Report notes of the nurse’s awareness of Aaliyah’s pulmonologist’s orders regarding treatment of her asthma.

On the day of the incident, Aaliyah went to the nurse’s office complaining of an asthma exacerbation. The nurse administered albuterol nebulizer inhalation therapy, and Aaliyah’s resting pulse rate remained “dangerously elevated” at 124 beats per minute, according to the lawsuit. According to WebMD, a 13-year-old’s typically pulse rate should be between 60 and 100 bpm.

The lawsuit said that the nurse did not use a peak flow meter or other tests to check Aaliyah’s respiratory condition before telling Aaliyah to report to physical education class.

The lawsuit alleges that Aaliyah’s condition deteriorated after she returned to class, and her airways narrowed to the point she could not breathe.

She lost consciousness and was oxygen deprived for approximately 30 minutes and suffered cerebral hypoxia/anoxia until she was intubated by first responders, according to the lawsuit.

Aaliyah was taken to the emergency department at Fairview Ridges Hospital by ambulance, and was transferred to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.

She was treated on an inpatient basis at the intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital until she was relatively stabilized, according to the lawsuit.

After she was released to home care, Aaliyah has required emergency medical intervention because of complications relating to her brain injury, according to the lawsuit.

Aaliyah was diagnosed with severe asthma at an early age, according to the lawsuit, as she has undergone continuous medical treatment for and management of her asthma most of her life.

The family said that Aaliyah’s asthma was a physical impairment that substantially limited her activity, even activities involving minimal physical movement and exertion such as walking.

The lawsuit says the damages the family sustained include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and disability as a result of Aaliyah’s brain and other injuries. They also are seeking damages for Aaliyah’s medical expenses, caretaking costs and loss of future income.

A GoFundMe page was set up for the family May 20. The lawsuit did not identify Aaliyah by name, but she was identified on the GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-support-aaliyah.

Tad Johnson can be reached at tad.johnson@ecm-inc.com.

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