An infection missed

Times Staff Writer

Angel Ayala was 8 months old when he was taken to King/Drew's emergency room in 1993, suffering a fever and seizures.

No one at the hospital was sure what was wrong. His mother, Diana Ayala, says he was sent home a week later, just as sick as when he arrived.

Doctors did not pick up on the fact that he had a viral infection, according to an analysis of the case by lawyers for the county. A spinal tap was misread as normal.

Weeks later, his family took him to another hospital; he was found to have irreversible brain damage, later determined to be from the herpes simplex virus. The family sued. County lawyers determined that experts would be critical of King/Drew doctors for failing to consider the virus as the culprit and failing to give Angel antiviral medication promptly.

Today, Angel cannot see, cannot talk, cannot walk. He can't hold up his head. His left side is paralyzed. His identical twin, Ray, outweighs him by 50 pounds. Ray helps feed Angel through a stomach tube. He sings and reads to Angel; he believes his brother is listening.

After a legal battle over whether the family sued too late, the Board of Supervisors agreed to a $500,000 settlement. The family received a smaller amount from Angel's pediatrician, not affiliated with King/Drew.

Angel's mother tries not to be angry at King/Drew. She says the boy has shown her the meaning of love. But she cannot forget the harm he has suffered. "This hospital knows that they have made mistakes," she says. "Shouldn't they have meetings and say, 'Look, we have one lawsuit already, now we have another, now we have 10'? How come they don't sit down and say, 'Let's correct the problem, let's do something.' "

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