Ryan Heydari was just 22 days old when the newborn bled to death in an Ontario hospital due to complications from his circumcision in January 2013.
“He gave us the most amazing moments of our life,” Ryan’s mom, Homa Ahmadi (above, with husband, John Heydari), told the National Post in the wake of even more tragic news: This month, the parents’ formal complaint about Ryan’s treatment has been shut down, without shedding enough light on what went wrong or how doctors can avoid such tragedies in the future, they maintain.
The couple had appealed an earlier ruling by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), which oversees medical professionals, but it was upheld. The emergency department doctor who treated Ryan was merely cautioned — for not treating the first stage of “hypovolemic shock” from which Ryan died after losing nearly 40 percent of his blood, according to the National Post. And the pediatrician who performed the circumcision was simply urged to be “mindful” of the procedure’s dangers, the newspaper reports. (CPSO communications coordinator Kathryn Clarke tells Yahoo Parenting that the organization is “not able to provide information about these decisions, as they did not result in an outcome that can be made public by the CPSO.” Yahoo Parenting was unable to reach Ahmadi and Heydari for comment.)
“We are so shocked that we will not have an answer to bring us some peace for our broken hearts, to prevent other cruel deaths like Ryan’s, and to ensure that doctors take proper care of their patients,” Ahmadi told the National Post. The couple’s lawyer, Brian Moher, tells Yahoo Parenting that the family has shown remarkable courage sharing their story and reliving the trauma of losing their son so that others can learn from their experience.
“It’s absolutely devastating,” he says. “Ryan is their only child, and the fact that a routine circumcision would later lead to consequences that are unfathomable just tears their heart out. But even if Ryan’s not with us, they feel it’s important that his story is heard, especially for parents considering circumcision. You think it’s for the benefit of your child, but if you don’t know the risks, and this case shows how extreme the risks can be, you’re going in uninformed.”
Ahmadi revealed that she and her husband were persuaded to circumcise Ryan by their pediatrician and felt something had gone seriously wrong soon after the procedure. Although the doctor reportedly told the CPSO that the circumcision was uneventful and there was no bleeding when he checked Ryan, Ahmadi said, “He was bleeding, and it only got worse over just hours. … It was so obvious from the blood his tiny body had lost that he was in danger.”
Hours later the couple called the physician, who advised them to take the infant to North York General Hospital in Toronto. There, Ahmadi said, they “waited for care that could have saved his life, but that level of care never came.” At some point Ryan was transferred to the Hospital for Sick Children, where he passed away seven days later.
Such serious complications from circumcision, however, are “unbelievably rare,” Shari Brasner, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Bleeding and infection are the most common, but even then, they are incredibly rare.” The risk rate is actually “less than 1 percent,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which, along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends that doctors speak with parents about the health benefits of the procedure. These include decreased chances of contracting HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and urinary tract infections.
“Typically, within three to four days, you’re done with care to the area” after a circumcision, says Brasner. Almost every baby is cleared for it a day after birth, she adds, except in some instances in which the newborn is very small, is in the neonatal intensive care unit attached to IVs, monitors, and such, or has an anatomic anomaly that requires a specialist to handle the operation. “Of course, if you have a family history of bleeding disorder, don’t sign your baby up for elective surgery,” Brasner continues. “But usually a baby who can go to the well-baby nursery is a fine candidate for circumcision.”
As for warning signs, Brasner advises parents to raise a red flag if bleeding persists for 30 minutes after the operation. It’s that telltale bleeding Ryan endured that his parents still wish they could get an answer about, says Moher: “My clients felt that there was a big gap in what the college had done with the investigations, essentially missing the point around the infant’s death.”
But even if the CPSO won’t help, Ahmadi said she wants to share her story as a cautionary tale, painful though it may still be. “[Because] we hope,” she told the National Post, “that this never happens to any other baby.”
(Top photo: Facebook/Homa Ahmadi)