According to a story from Global Knock, a woman with spina bifida died after a severe bedsore on her back became infected. Chrissy Dunnington was in long term care at the Parkstone Enhanced Care facility in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her death initiated a criminal investigation, and her family believes that her death was the result of negligence on the part of staff at the center.
What is spina bifida?
Spina bifida is a type of birth defect in which backbone and membrane fail to completely close around the spinal cord. In the most severe form, a portion of the spinal cord visibly protrudes through an opening in the skin. The affected area is typically the lower back, but it can also occur on any portion of the spinal cord. The defect results in a dimple, patch of hair, swelling, or dark spot above the affected area. Other complications include reduced walking ability, issues with bladder and bowel control, latex allergy, and hydrocephalus. Potential risk factors during pregnancy include a lack of folate, poorly managed diabetes, obesity, and some antiseizure drugs. Folate supplementation can be preventative. Surgery is commonly performed after surgery to make the repair, but people with spina bifida may need periodic check-ups throughout their lives, and some will struggle to live independently. To learn more about spina bifida, click here.
Chrissy was born with severe spina bifida which caused her cognitive problems that limited her ability to make decisions. She had limited mobility and was not capable of communicating the extent of her bedsores to facility staff. She had been watched over by foster parents, but they eventually were no longer able continue caring for her.
Her sister Dorothy has a deep love for her, and it didn’t take long for the family to grow worried about the standard of care at Parkstone. When the family came for visits, Chrissy was often slumped uncomfortably in her wheelchair; she spent a lot of time in bed and often her teeth were not even brushed. Dorothy met with staff to make her concerns known and left thinking that things would improve, but they did not.
Eventually, a massive bedsore the size of a fist developed on Chrissy’s back. Unable to communicate what was wrong, the wound went untreated and became infected. Even after the center became aware, the wound continued to worsen, and she had to be rushed to the hospital.
It turned out that the facility had known about the bedsore months earlier and had failed to inform the family. Chrissy succumbed to the infection after months in the hospital.
The family immediately reported the incident to the police, and Health Minister Randy Delorey has ordered the tracking of all bedsores in long term care centers. However, he has yet to say if the tracking will be made publicly available.
For now, the Dunnigan family is reaching out to other families who also feel they have been subject to neglect at Parkstone. They plan to file a class action suit against Shannex, the parent company.