‘Take the child to the ER right away’: Naturopathic doctor testifies at meningitis trial

LETHBRIDGE – Three doctors testified Wednesday during the trial of David and Collet Stephan. The couple is charged with failing to provide the necessities of life. Their 18-month-old son Ezekiel died from meningitis in March 2012.

David and his wife Collet have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

READ MORE: Jury trial begins for southern Alberta parents accused in toddler’s death from meningitis 

The first doctor to testify Wednesday was Barbara Ross, a pediatrician from the Calgary Children’s Hospital. Ross reviewed the ambulance log and said when Ezekiel was picked up by paramedics he was dead.

“There was no heart beat, no blood pressure,” Ross explained. “He was clinically dead.”

The medical examiner who testified last week said baby Ezekiel was brain dead when EMS met up with the couple – who had started driving to meet the ambulance because the toddler stopped breathing. Medical examiner Dr. Bamidele Adeagbo told the court the brain acts differently when it has a lack of oxygen, compared to when it’s reacting to meningitis.

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READ MORE: Autopsy confirmed 18-month-old Alberta boy died of meningitis, medical examiner testifies 

Later Wednesday, Dr. Tracey Tannis, a Naturopathic doctor at the Lethbridge Naturopathic Medical Clinic, testified.

She said on March 13, 2012 her secretary took a phone call from a woman concerned about her young son. She testified the woman told her that she had a friend who was a nurse with her and she was concerned about viral meningitis. Tannis told her secretary: ‘You need to tell her to take the child to the ER right away.'”

Tannis testified that the next day a woman came into her clinic and asked for an over-the-counter echinacea treatment for her son who was almost two. Tannis told the court she didn’t know if the woman was the same one who called the day before.

Dr. Frederick Cunningham a physician from Cardston was the third witness to testify Wednesday afternoon. He was called into the ER the night of March 13 when Ezekiel was brought into the Cardston Hospital by EMS.

When the toddler came in, Cunningham said he was paged by another doctor to help with airway management to ensure his brain and lungs were receiving oxygen. He explained that he immediately put in a second tracheal tube when he saw the child, removing the one EMS first put in, to help maximize his airway.

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Cunningham told the court when the plan was established to transfer Ezekiel to the Alberta Children’s Hospital, he remained with the toddler from Cardston until he was airlifted by STARS at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge.

He said Ezekiel remained non-responsive the entire time, as the severity of his condition remained the same from Cardston to Lethbridge.

On Thursday the doctor who first saw the child when EMS brought him to the ER in Cardston will testify, along with the paramedic and 911 dispatchers.

The trial was originally scheduled to wrap up next week but the judge now says it may take longer.

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