A mix-up between two outpatients' names at the San Fernando General Hospital resulted in a 13-year-old child having eye surgery meant for the other.
The boy, Stephan Thomas, now 14, has since undergone corrective surgeries at the hospital, but his mother Latoiya Moses, 33, said his eye condition has not improved.
She has taken legal action against the South-West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA), accusing staff of negligence.
Her attorneys, Prakash Ramadhar, Ted Roopnarine and others have sent a pre-action protocol letter to SWRHA’s legal department on December 17.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday at Ramadhar’s office in San Fernando, Moses, a single mother from Couva, said her only child has a "squint" eye (his left eye).
On January 11, she accompanied him to the hospital’s eye clinic and when his name was called, a staff member said he needed laser surgery. She filled out and signed several documents consenting to the procedure.
She later found out the laser treatment was intended for someone named Stephon Thomas, who has a cataract, and not for Stephan Thomas.
The same day, doctors gave her prescriptions and discharged him.
"They told me his natural lens was damaged and gave me prescriptions," she said.
A few days later, he complained about not seeing out of the damaged eye and she returned to the hospital.
On January 19, Stephan had surgery. Moses said his eye condition worsened, he was in pain, and the eye was swollen.
In May last year, he was hospitalised for 14 days. Four months later, in September, Stephan had yet more surgery, this time because the lens previously put in his eye was the wrong size.
With tears running down her face, Moses said she felt like she failed to protect her child.
She added, "I am not condemning anybody, but something like this made me realise that even if we think someone is qualified and know what they are doing, we could still ask a question. We have all the rights to do so.
"For me, I had failed to do that, and now my son is in a position where I am not sure that I would get the support that I needed just by coming here (at the conference) today. I just want my son to have a normal life again."
Stephan, a form one student at Couva West Secondary School, still attends the clinic for his original condition.
"We always argue when it comes to going to the hospital for every appointment. This is something that affects us mentally and psychologically. It is unbearable," Moses said.
Owing to sensitivity to light and other factors in his damaged eye, Stephan says he cannot play with his only friend, a dog named Blackie.
The soft-spoken boy said people usually made fun of him because of his squint. For that reason, he does not have friends and keeps to himself. But after the surgery, being around the dog and other animals now makes his eye hurt, and his mother removed the dog from the house.
"Before the surgery, I used to go outside and play with my dog. He was my only friend. Now, most of the time, I cry for him. Sometimes I took him for walks in the savannah.
"Before the surgery, my eye was perfectly fine," Stephan said.
Despite the hospital mix-up, he added, "The nurses at the hospital were really nice and they made me feel normal and happy."
The letter sent to SWRHA accuses staff of failing to properly check and confirm that the treatment being given was the correct one for the correct patient.
The attorneys are seeking special damages for medical and travel expenses for the mother and son. They also want general damages for personal injuries and consequential loss for a sum to be agreed.
Ramadhar and Roopnarine also want the authority to claim liability for the incident, saying Stephan has suffered and continues to suffer severe emotional and psychological distress and extreme pain after receiving the wrong treatment.
Newsday called SWRHA officials for comments on the issue.
An official responded, "The SWRHA notes the media reports and inquiries in relation to the aforementioned.
"Based on our initial checks, there is no record of receipt of the attorney's letter. The authority will reach out to the attorney to obtain a copy of same."