Blood on Brown water Ch.2 e
BLOOD ON BROWN WATER:
Lies, Ignorance, or Just Plain Incompetency?
Somewhere around 11:30 on the evening of December 2, 2000, in very rough weather while returning to the pipe-laying barge they were servicing, the mate of the tug MOHAWK EAGLE on reaching the pilot house found the tugboat plowing through heavy seas on automatic pilot with Captain Collins Verret lying on the pilothouse floor.One deckhand was told later that morning that he heard that Collins ..."was laying on his knees by the chair holding on." The mate asked if Collins hurt himself and Collins reportedly said "no" and that he was simply tired and just wanted to sleep. The mate found this highly unusual, said he suggested that Collins go below to his cabin but reported receiving a reply that it was too rough to go below. The mate gave him a pillow and left him lying on the deck. Collins had suffered a stroke that the mate apparently did not recognize.
For the next six hours, Collins continued lying on the pilot house floor, apparently asleep. It was only when the pipe-laying barge called at 05:30 the next morning to start the day's work that the mate attempted to arouse Collins but was unable to do so. When his deckhand reported for duty at watch change, he had him call the cook and asked him to bring Collins sleeping bag to the pilot house. The cook examined Collins and immediately concluded that he was seriously ill. He, thereupon, reminded the mate that the mate was now the Captain of the vessel, and urged him to call the barge Captain to ask the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) assigned to the lay barge to examine Collins-which he did as well as calling his office.
The mate maneuvered the tug near the barge and the EMT made a harrowing leap in 6-8 foot seas and proceeded to examine Collins on the deck of the pilothouse and, following a detailed examination, declared that he had suffered a stroke. The barge captain, who knew and had great respect for Collins, immediately called for a commercial evacuation helicopter set out promptly for the barge. Three riggers and three tug crew members put Collins in a litter basket, carried him down to the after deck, and transferred him by personnel basket to the lay barge from which the helicopter brought him ashore.
The delay in determining that Collins had suffered a stroke was critical to his recovery and could have taken his life. according to the expert testimony of Dr.Meyer: "The delay of six hours prior to his receiving medical attention, more probably than not, denied him the benefits of TPA therapy, as the earlier the TPA treatment is administered within three hours for ischemic stroke the better the outcome:
The family was told , and believed , that Collins had suffered a stroke in his stateroom sometime during the night. It only became apparent in a deposition given under oath more than two years later that Collins had really collapsed in the pilothouse as the vessel was running on auto pilot and was left to lie where fell for more than six hours without summoning medical attention from the nearby barge or from the Coast Guard. One story recited by one of the deckhands indicated that he sat for a while in the pilothouse with the mate in the dark while Collins lying on the deck and that Collins responded to their questions. Collins recalls nothing of the events after about 11:00 in the evening or of his stroke until he was revived in the hospital. The mate, however denied that the deckhand ever sat in the pilot house that night. When Catherine heard the mate's statement under oath in the deposition two years after the fact, it was "as if they cut my heart out".
Dr. Meyer, a renowned stroke treatment specialists, stated clearly in his testimony that giving TPA therapy after the initial three-hour window of opportunity passes can clearly endanger the life of the patient. However, it appears that there was no clear transfer of information as to when the stroke occurred- was it 11:30 p.m. or 5:30 A.M.? Consequently, Collins received the TPA treatment far beyond the "window of opportunity" on his arrival at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital. This late treatment alone could have killed him-but fortunately did not.
The irony is that the mate had taken two complete first aid and CPR classes earlier in the year during his licensure and later as a part of his STCW training. Yet, he either failed to recognize the signs of stroke that he should have learned in school or failed to take decisive action and call either the barge or his home office for six hours. was it gross incompetence or just plain ignorance ... we may never know-but there certainly were a number of lies and other misleading information needed to be unraveled.
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