J.H., who was diagnosed with asthma at the age of 2, was a student at Suncrest Primary School in kindergarten.
The defendant was aware of J.H.’s asthma and there was a care plan that included specific instructions and procedures to follow regarding administration of her prescribed Albuterol inhaler, which was to be administered as rescue medication in the event of an asthma attack, according to a complaint filed Feb. 23 in Monongalia Circuit Court.
Vanessa Hilling claims she communicated to officials of the board, as well as the primary school, that J.H. was to carry her inhaler on her person and that she was to remain immobile in the event of an asthma attack.
Hilling claims the defendants refused to follow the medical directions of J.H.’s primary care physician and did not allow J.H. to carry her inhaler on her person and required that the inhaler be kept in the main office of the school.
On April 29, 2015, J.H. reported to the main office around 1 p.m. with tightness in her chest and the secretary denied her the use of her inhaler and made her return to class, according to the suit.
Hilling claims neither her to J.H.’s father were notified of the tightness in J.H.’s chest.
Shortly before 3 p.m., J.H. reported back to the office coughing and wheezing and stated that she could not breathe and her chest was tight, at which time the secretary administered the Albuterol inhaler to J.H. and then called Hilling, according to the suit.
Hilling claims the secretary did not, however, call 911, despite the fact that it is part of the medical response policies and protocols to notify emergency medical personnel in such a situation.
The secretary told Hilling that J.H. had used her inhaler and was fine and asked if she should allow her to ride the school bus home, which Hilling told her not to do and that she would leave immediately to pick J.H. up, according to the suit.
Hilling claims when she arrived at the school, J.H. was seated in the office and was wheezing, unable to tall, excessively pale, her lips and nail beds had turned blue and she was unable to stand or walk.
When Hilling asked how many times the secretary had administered the inhaler, the secretary replied, “I think 16 or 17 times,” according to the suit.
Hilling claims this is despite the fact that J.H.’s care plan provided by her physician indicated that she was only to be administered the inhaler two times over the course of one hour in the event of an asthma attack.
Excessive administration and overuse of Albuterol inhalers can make asthma harder to control and can have harmful side effects, including dangerously rapid or irregular heartbeat, anxiety, nervousness, dizziness, headache, nausea, low blood potassium, muscle weakness/spasms and hypersensitivity of the lungs, according to the suit.
Hilling claims she rushed J.H. to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with acute asthma exasperation. She was discharged on May 1, 2015, with a host of additional prescriptions and aggressive treatment instructions that she had not required before the April 29, 2015, asthma attack.
The school nurse was not present at the school during the events of April 29, 2015, and did not arrive there until after Hilling had taken J.H. to the hospital. However, upon arriving at the school, the nurse documented the incident and only indicated that J.H. was administered her inhaler six times, according to the suit.
Hilling claims the inaccurate reporting of the number of times J.H. was administered her inhaler could be dangerous, as the report was forwarded to the hospital upon her admission and was used in reference to her emergency medical treatment.
J.H.’s asthma has worsened considerably since the April 29, 2015, asthma attack. Prior to the incident, she seldom used her rescue inhaler and seldom had asthma attacks and she was able to fully enjoy the life of a normal 5-year-old and enjoyed riding her bike, playing on the playground, playing soccer and tee ball and participating fully in ballet.
After the incident, J.H. was rarely able to participate in the same activities without experiencing asthma attacks or complications associated with her asthma and she has become fearful of being physically active, according to the suit.
Hilling claims J.H. has also received mental health therapy after the incident, as she was fearful that she would experience another attack that would not be sufficiently addressed and treated.
Hilling is seeking compensatory damages. She is being represented by Sean W. Cook of Meyer Ford & Glasser.
Monongalia Circuit Court case number: 17-C-91