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Hospital Mixed Up Babies, Mother Says : Newborns: Wrong name on wristband tipped off one mother, who eventually was reunited with her child. Medical center reportedly called it a typographical error.

December 23, 1990|SONNI EFRON and RICHARD BEENE | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

COSTA MESA — A new mother said Saturday that Western Medical Center-Santa Ana sent her home with the wrong baby after switching two infants shortly after birth.

The woman and her husband, who asked not to be identified, said, however, their week-old son has been returned to them.

Hospital spokesman John M. Boop said Saturday it would be "terribly inappropriate" to confirm or deny any mix-up because such information is part of the patients' confidential medical records.

The Costa Mesa mother said she was handed the wrong baby in the hospital hours after the birth a week ago, and had no idea the boy was not her son until a day after she took the infant home. Then she noticed that his wristband bore another mother's name.

"It's a very traumatic experience," she said. "I was hysterical."

She said she notified the hospital, which found the other baby. Both couples were informed that their babies probably had been switched, the woman said. But it took several days of testing before the couples were sure they had the right babies, she said. "They were just as torn up as we were," the mother said.

The woman said she gave birth to an 8-pound, 3-ounce boy at 3:04 a.m. last Saturday. At about 6 a.m., she said, she was handed a baby that looked remarkably like her own son.

"I couldn't tell because I had been in labor and I was tired, and he had a little hat on," she said. "I had no idea it wasn't mine."

From that point on, she said, "I had the baby in the room with me."

The mother and baby were sent home from the hospital about noon on Sunday, the couple said. That night, "I went to put the baby in his pajamas, and the wristband just slipped right off, and I just set it aside," she said. "I didn't think about it because you never think it's the wrong baby."

But on Monday, she found the wristband, noticed that it bore another woman's name, and called the hospital.

"At first, they said that it was a typographical error," she said. Eventually, however, the hospital sent a representative to the home of the other set of parents, and found that they had been sent home with an 8-pound, 2-ounce boy who looked almost identical--but also had the wrong name on his wristband.

The Costa Mesa couple believe that the mix-up occurred because the babies, who are initially tagged with bands on their wrists and ankles, were each tagged with one name on the wrist and another on the ankle.

Jacqueline Lincer, Orange County district administrator for the state Department of Health Services' Facilities Licensing and Certification Division, said the allegation about the baby mix-up at Western Medical Center-Santa Ana is under investigation.

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