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Agency's Probe of Death Call Continues

State health department will keep reviewing the case of a Fullerton toddler who mistakenly was declared dead after she fell into a pool.

November 15, 2003|Jeff Gottlieb | Times Staff Writer

The state Department of Health Services has reversed itself and said Friday that it is continuing to review the case of the Fullerton toddler whom doctors mistakenly declared dead last week after a near drowning.

The announcement means that two state agencies are looking at the case of 20-month-old Mackayala Jespersen.

The Medical Board of California, which has jurisdiction over doctors, issued a statement Wednesday saying it is investigating whether misconduct took place.

The Department of Health Services regulates hospitals, not a doctor's performance.

On Wednesday, department spokesman Robert Miller said his agency found that Anaheim Memorial Hospital had followed protocol for treating a potential drowning, especially of one who had fallen into cold water.

He said Friday that doctors warmed her and used CPR, drugs and defibrillation and stimulated her heart with an external pacemaker.

He did not say what had prompted the department to reverse itself. "It's nothing new," he said. "Just in looking at the situation, we decided we're going to make sure we looked at everything we need to know.

"We've determined we haven't made a final determination."

Mackayala remained in serious but stable condition at Children's Hospital of Orange County.

Brian Oxman, an attorney for the family, said the girl will suffer some disabilities.

Emergency room doctors at Anaheim Memorial declared her dead after she was found face-down in the family pool on Nov. 7. About 40 minutes later a detective taking routine photos of her body noticed her chest moving and called for help.

Doctors who are not connected to the case said the 52-degree temperature of the pool could have led Mackayala's vital signs to slow and almost mimic death.

Miller said it would be a few weeks before the case is closed.

The hospital notified the Department of Health Services of the incident, as is required in any event considered an "unusual occurrence," Miller said.

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