York County parents sue hospital claiming child’s cancer went undetected at birth

YORK, S.C. — A York family’s 5-year-old son is in a wheelchair.

Tristan Blanton’s parents claim he was born with cancer, but despite several x-rays at Piedmont Medical Center, they said doctors missed it.

Because the Blantons are suing, they could not speak to Channel 9 directly. WSOC-TV obtained a mediation video of their story and have included portions in this report.

In June 2017, Chase and Jenna Blanton welcomed their first born son, Tristan, at Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill.

“The first indication that something was wrong, the doctors and nurses didn’t like the way he was crying, like he had something in his lungs,” said Tristan’s father, Chase Blanton.

Three x-rays were taken of Tristan’s lungs on June 15, 16 and 17, 2017.

The family said each was read by a different radiologist.

The third report noted “no acute abnormality of the visualized bones identified.”

“They came and told us that it was pneumonia,” said Tristan’s mother, Jenna Blanton. “After seven days, they released him to go home.”

But at 4 months old, the Blantons said they noticed their baby boy wasn’t hitting milestones.

In December 2017, 6-month-old Tristan, struggling to breathe, was sent to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. Tests revealed a devastating diagnosis of neuroblastoma, cancer in Tristan’s nerve cells.

The Blantons said Tristan underwent surgery to remove the tumor and chemotherapy, but his spinal cord was damaged, leaving him with permanent paralysis.

“To come to find out that he was misdiagnosed initially at birth, and this all could have been handled,” said his father.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control gives each hospital with perinatal care services a level, one to four, based on the staff they have and the complexity of cases they can handle.

Piedmont Medical Center is a level three hospital.

State regulations show level three membership requires having medical staff credentials and/or written consultative agreements with specialists and subspecialists, including pediatric radiologists.

In their lawsuit, the Blantons claim the doctors who reviewed Tristan’s x-rays were not subspecialized in pediatric radiology.

In a court document, attorneys for Piedmont Medical Center stated, “Piedmont admits that it did not have a fellowship-trained or sub board-certified pediatric radiologist on staff, but it did have radiologists on staff who were competent to interpret pediatric imaging and it did have access to pediatric radiology sub specialists through pre-arranged agreements. Piedmont asserts that the arrangements it had and has in place for the interpretation of pediatric imaging and for access to pediatric subspecialty consultations were known to and approved by DHEC and were in compliance with all DHEC requirements and expectations.”

In a civil medical malpractice lawsuit, the Blantons’ attorney wrote, “had a pediatric radiologist read the films of TB, this abnormality would have been caught in plenty of time to avoid the permanent grievous injuries to this child.”

The plaintiffs claim the spaces between and the thickness of a baby’s ribs should be equal but Tristan’s weren’t. Abnormalities, they claim, doctors should have seen.

In order for a hospital system to obtain level one to four certifications, officials must file an application under oath to DHEC.

A DHEC spokesperson told Channel 9 officials to monitor compliance through inspections, investigations, consultations, compliance assistance and required reporting.

DHEC also investigates potential violations if it receives a formal complaint.

A DHEC spokesperson said they do not have any record of state licensing investigations into Piedmont Medical Center’s membership.

DHEC declined because of the Blantons’ lawsuit.

A settlement was later reached between the Blantons and Piedmont NICU lawsuit.

The court sealed the financial terms and approved the settlement, and the portion of the lawsuit against the radiologists is still pending.

Statement from the Blanton’s attorney: “The Blanton family is grateful this part of the case is resolved and looks forward to Tristan’s promising future.”

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