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Hospital Performs Wrong Surgery On Boy

September 4, 1987

ROBBINSDALE, Minn. (AP) _ Two-year-old Nicholas Boehlke went to the hospital to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. Instead, his ears were operated on when workers confused him with another little boy named Nicholas.

″I feel it is a terrible mistake,″ said Timothy Boehlke, Nicholas’ father.

Nicholas, who went into the hospital Aug. 24, is back home in Brooklyn Center recuperating from the ear operation and from subsequent surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids.

During the first surgery, tubes were inserted in his ears. The tubes were removed during the tonsil and adenoid surgery.

″He still has a little blood coming out of his ears but they said it was just the dry blood from his tubes,″ said his mother, Lori Boehlke.

North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale apologized Friday.

″A mistake was made and we are very sorry,″ B.J. Buckland, director of surgical services, told a new conference.

Buckland said operating room personnel failed to check the boy’s identification braclet.

No disciplinary action has been taken, he said.

The Boehlkes say they and Nicholas were in the waiting room before the operation when three hospital personnel came in. One of them, referring to Nicholas by his first name, said they were ready for his operation.

The Boehlkes said they went to the coffee shop, as hospital personnel suggested, to await a page after the operation.

But Mrs. Boehlke became uneasy. She recalled she had met another mother that day whose 11-month-old boy, also named Nicholas, was having tubes put in his ears.

She returned to the waiting room and found the mother of the 11-month-old.

″I hate to tell you this,″ Lori Boehlke quoted that woman as saying, ″but I think they have our Nicholases mixed up.″

The Boehlkes said the woman told them hospital personnel had reported that her son was in the recovery room, when actually he was still in the waiting room.

Mrs. Boehlke said she and her husband were told by hospital personnel that a mistake had been made and that they were sorry.

Medical personnel said the operation on the tonsils and adenoids could still be performed and, before the second surgery, Nicholas was brought out to see his parents.

″He cried and cried and grabbed onto Lori’s hair,″ Boehlke said. ″The first time he went, there was no problem. The second time, he was scared.″

The boy was discharged the next day. The younger Nicholas underwent his originally scheduled operation.

The hospital told the parents they wouldn’t have to pay for either operation, but the Boehlkes say the costs are already paid by health insurance.

The couple has retained attorneys Miles Lord and Peter Krieser. Krieser said Friday that no lawsuit has been filed and he hopes the matter can be resolved by other means.

It’s not known whether the tubes inserted in the boy’s ears will affect his hearing, Krieser said, adding that doctors will evaluate the boy’s condition in a month.

Buckland said the procedure known as a bilateral myringotomy is common. The Teflon tubes drain pressure within the eardrum, which helps prevent ear infection in young children, he said.

″I’m not aware of any complications that might occur,″ from the wrong surgery, Buckland said.

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