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Minneapolis hospital investigating temporary mix-up between 2 baby boys

This news story was published on December 7, 2012.
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By Maura Lerner, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

MINNEAPOLIS — Tammy Van Dyke had hoped to get one good night’s sleep before taking her newborn son, Cody, home from the hospital. So off he went to the nursery Tuesday night at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.

Sometime overnight, the baby was brought to the wrong room and breast-fed by another new mom before the mix-up was discovered.

The hospital issued a public apology Wednesday, acknowledging the error and saying that its own safety procedures apparently “were not followed in this case.”

Van Dyke, 40, who lives in Apple Valley, said that Cody and the other woman, who had given birth to twins, were given blood tests to make sure they were not exposed to any infectious diseases, such as hepatitis or HIV, that can be transmitted through breast milk. All the tests were negative, she said — but Cody will have to be retested every three months for a year.

“I’m still distraught and heartbroken,” Van Dyke said, adding that she blames herself for putting her son in jeopardy. “He’s 2 days old and I failed him,” she said.

A hospital spokeswoman said Abbott gives all newborns and mothers matching hospital ID bracelets, and that staff members are supposed to check that the IDs match “at every step.”

“Apparently, somebody didn’t follow procedure, so that’s what we’re trying to figure out,” said Gloria O’Connell, the spokeswoman. She added that this was “very serious business,” and that the hospital is investigating.

The Minnesota Department of Health does not track how often newborn mix-ups occur within hospitals, but is required to report if any infant is sent home with the wrong parents. There have been no such incidents in the five years since the reporting requirement began, department records show.

Cody, who was born Monday, was wearing three hospital ID bracelets with the proper identification on his ankle, according to his mother. But on Wednesday morning, several hospital staffers came into her room about 10 a.m., saying they needed to talk.

“They told me that Cody had been placed in the wrong bassinet and wheeled into another woman’s room and was breast-fed,” Van Dyke said.

Van Dyke said she later met the other woman, who said that she suspected Cody was not her child when he was wheeled into her room. But her husband assured her she was just tired, Van Dyke said, “so then she just proceeded to breast-feed.”

Minutes later, the woman noticed the wrong name on the baby’s hospital ID tag and called a nurse. Van Dyke said the woman told her it took nearly 20 minutes for hospital staff to locate her own baby boy, who was in the wrong bassinet.

Van Dyke said that one nurse supervisor was “choking back tears” when she broke the news to her about the mix-up. “She felt horrible,” she said.

Dr. Penny Wheeler, an obstetrician and hospital official, issued a statement saying that Abbott Northwestern was “very sorry” about the incident. “We sincerely apologize to the involved families and will make certain we understand why our procedures were not appropriately followed in this case,” she said.

“As far as we know, this has never happened before at Abbott,” said O’Connell, the hospital spokeswoman.

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