Jennifer Melton delivered a beautiful and healthy baby boy named Nate on December 16, 2015 at University Medical Center in Tennessee. Jennifer was encouraged by a nurse to allow her newborn to be taken to the nursery for a check-up. As this is routine, Jennifer tried to get some rest.
Nate was returned a few hours later by a nurse who began to mention a “tongue-clipping” procedure that was performed on the 1 day old baby. Jennifer looked at the nurse and asked what she was talking about; the nurse began to explain how the procedure would help with their nursing problems. Jennifer responded that she must have the wrong paperwork because they were not experiencing any nursing issues and that she never heard anything about a tongue clipping procedure. The news that the doctor mistakenly performed surgery on her child left her hysterical.
Nate had received a frenulectomy, a procedure in which the flap of skin under the tongue is cut. The procedure was meant for another baby who was having trouble nursing due to having a tight frenulum, also known as “tongue tie”. Prior to the procedure, the pediatrician who performed the procedure was in with another family discussing the procedure and transposed the infant’s names in the nursery. Tongue tie is only present in about 5% of the population and can cause problems with feeding including breast feeding, gaining weight and could cause speech impairments later in life.
Jennifer stated that having a newborn is exciting and that you want to make sure they are nursing and feeding well. Everything was great until the mistake. After she received the news of the procedure she began to inspect her baby to make sure he was her son. When she opened his mouth and found bruising, she demanded an explanation for what happened which she did not receive for an additional 15 minutes.
The pediatrician called Jennifer’s room phone and began to explain that he did perform the procedure on her child due to an error in identifying the correct patient; he tried to reassure her by adding “don’t worry, he barely cried”. Jennifer said she cried because her innocent, healthy baby had undergone a procedure he did not need due to the recklessness of hospital staff. University Medical Center responded that they take these things seriously and seek to address it in order to prevent accidents like this from happening in the future.
The family’s attorney stated he has never seen anything like this and questions the safety protocol of the hospital, questioning why the doctor checked to make sure he had the correct baby. He also stated that luckily a more invasive procedure was not done on Nate and that it will take time to determine whether he will have speech issues or difficulty eating as a result of the malpractice. The family plans to sue the hospital for unspecified damages once Nate receives a social security number, which should be issued within the next few weeks. Jennifer is pursuing this matter in hopes that no one else will have to leave the hospital feeling the way she did that day.