From the Courts
November 27, 2009

Doctor says 15-year-old had pulmonary edema

The doctor who examined Jemark Jackson, the boy who was allegedly beaten by police officers, said that he suffered from pulmonary edema.{{more}}

Dr. Lennox Adams gave evidence in the case involving the three officers charged with assault of Jackson at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court last Tuesday.

The three officers, Hadley Ballantyne, Casanki Quow and Osrick James were all charged on July 9, 2009, for causing actual bodily harm to 15-year-old Jackson.

Jackson alleges that on November 17, 2008, he was kicked in his stomach and chest, slammed on the ground and beaten with a piece of garden hose, causing him to be hospitalised.

During his testimony, the doctor said that he treated Jackson upon his arrival at the Accident and Emergency Unit of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital on November 19, 2008, and found him to be in respiratory distress — that is, he had difficulty breathing and was breathing rapidly. Adams added that Jackson complained of abdominal pain.

The doctor said, too, he noticed Jackson was making noises as he was breathing and suggested that fluid was in his lungs “particularly in the left lung”. Two x-rays were done, with the second leading doctors to conclude there was swelling and/or bruising of the lung.

The first x-ray, Adams said, was inconsistent with what he had heard from the lungs while examining Jackson. Pulmonary edema, Adams explained, is the accumulation of fluid in the lungs.

When asked if it is possible to have an initial x-ray that did not show signs of bruising, Adams said yes. He added that it was possible that the fact that the second x-ray showed the bruising of the lung meant that Jackson’s condition had deteriorated.

Adams added that Jackson’s respiratory distress worsened, which is when he alerted doctors from the anesthesia team and a senior consultant who then discussed Jackson’s case. It was suggested that Jackson needed to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

“So this was a serious case?” Director of Public Prosecution Colin Williams asked Adams.

“In my mind it was,” he responded.

Adams said that Jackson was admitted to the ICU, and shortly after he had to be placed on a mechanical breathing machine (intubated) as his oxygen levels were deteriorating. Adams added that Jackson was placed in the care of the anesthesiology team and the general medical team, with surgery following.

When asked if pulmonary edema could develop naturally, Adams said that it was possible “in the case of fluid overload”. He added that contusions would appear with blunt force trauma. Adams also said that in the case that something strikes the chest wall a mark or scar does not have to appear on the chest wall.

In cross examination, lawyer Arthur Williams asked Adams whether there were scars on Jackson’s body when he was examined, and whether or not it is possible to see obvious scars of blunt force trauma.

Adams said that there were no scars on Jackson and that “sometimes the skin is spared” of scars or bruising if it is sufficiently padded when the person is hit.

Assistant Superintendent of Police Wilsford Caesar and police officer Elmore Alexander also gave evidence. The case will continue on December 4, 2009.