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Comatose Woman’s Baby in Critical but Stable Condition

March 18, 1985

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ A 1-pound, 15-ounce baby girl remained in critical but stable condition today, two days after her delivery from a woman who was left paralyzed and comatose by an improper injection, hospital officials said.

Doctors at Albany Medical Center said the child has a 60 percent chance of surviving.

The baby was delivered Saturday by a special 25-member team when the mother, Lillian Cedeno, a cancer patient, developed a tissue injury in her lung. She was 26 weeks pregnant.

″We mobilized every specialist we thought had any possible implication (for a successful birth) - the chief of anesthesiology, the chief of pediatric anesthesiology, the chief of neo-natology, the chief of pediatrics,″ hospital spokesman Elmer Streeter said Sunday. ″Everything we had was brought in.″

The baby suffered no complications other than those associated with a premature infant, said Dr. Allan Geis, a member of the hospital’s neo-natal unit.

Ms. Cedeno’s lung damage was the latest in a ″slow but progressive″ deterioration in the condition of the 21-year-old Schenectady woman, who was improperly injected with a chemotherpay drug called vincristine Feb. 27 by two resident physicians at the hospital, hospital officials said.

Vincristine is supposed to be injected only into a vein, but the two residents misread a label and injected the drug into the woman’s spine, causing severe nerve and brain damage.

Ms. Cedeno has been comatose for a week and is connected to a respirator. She also was in critical condition today.

″We are committed to doing all that we can to continue to support her,″ said Dr. Anthony Tartaglia, the hospital’s vice president of patient and clinical affairs. He added that it was impossible to predict how long she would remain alive.

Tartaglia said the infant, named Lillian Kathy, has a 60 percent chance of surviving. The baby was delivered by Caesarean section.

″Although we are still terribly saddened by the tragedy, we are uplifted by the birth,″ said Tartaglia.

The baby’s grandfather, Anibal Cedeno, a 47-year-old unemployed factory worker from Schenectady, said the baby was named Lillian ″because she is beautiful like her mother.″

Geis said development of the baby’s lungs was the ″most critical aspect″ for the baby’s survival over the intial weeks.

He said the baby is breathing on her own, but also is connected to a respirator. Geis said the infant is receiving fluids through a tube inserted in the umbilical cord opening and is in a temperature-controlled bed.

The two unidentified residents who gave Ms. Cedeno the injection asked hospital officials to be temporarily relieved of their duties at the facility until an investigation is completed by the state Health Department and the hospital.

Those investigations are checking whether fatigue had a role in the incident which Tartaglia called, ″a terrible, terrible error, as terrible as there is in medicine.″

Hospital officials earlier said that of 20 to 30 cases worldwide in which vincristine was mistakenly injected in the spinal column, only one patient survived.

Albany Medical Center Hospital is a regional hospital serving northeastern New York and western New England and has neo-natal care responsibility for the region.

Geis said about 850 babies a year are born at the hospital and between 200 and 250 are considered premature infants.

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