24-year-old dies hours after being discharged from Denver Health following kidney surgery

Problem Solvers

DENVER (KDVR) — Denver Health Medical Center has received legal notice of a potential $10 million lawsuit for the death of a 24-year-old Beaver Creek ski school instructor.

An autopsy report obtained by FOX31 showed Joshua Brumm died Dec. 2 from internal bleeding.

His death came just hours after he was discharged from Denver Health following a 12-day hospital stay.

“A 24-year-old should not go into the hospital because of a kidney injury and die,” said his mother, Lynn Brumm, in an exclusive interview with the Problem Solvers.

Joshua Brumm was airlifted to Denver Health on Nov. 20 from Vail Health Hospital following a snowboarding accident, where he injured his left kidney failing on a rock.

Doctors in Vail had hoped Denver Health, a Level 1 trauma center, could save Brumm’s kidney.

But following days of internal bleeding, a Denver Health surgery team removed his kidney on Nov. 28, his eighth day in the hospital.

No exploratory surgery

Hollynd Hoskins, a medical malpractice attorney representing the Brumm family, said medical records showed hospital staff never did any further imaging after Brumm’s kidney surgery to determine if his internal bleeding had stopped.

“If they had done their job, Joshua Brumm would be here with us today,” said Hoskins.

Hoskins told FOX31 the hospital should’ve done exploratory surgery to find the source of Brumm’s internal bleeding since he continued to need blood transfusions, even after the Nov. 28 kidney surgery.

“Objective testing and blood laboratory results showed that he was bleeding internally. Denver Health needed to take him to the operating room, find the bleeding and stop it and they failed to do so,” said Hoskins.

Brumm was released to his mother’s care on Dec. 2, though Lynn Brumm remembered being apprehensive when she picked up her son in the hospital parking lot.

“When I got out of the car he was already bleeding through his shirt, through his really thick dressing pads and the nurse just said, ‘Oh, looks like he sprung a leak,'” she said.

Lynn Brumm took her son to a friend’s house in Brighton and said seven hours later he became dizzy and lost his vision. In the 911 call obtained by the Problem Solvers, you hear the operator ask, “How old is the person having the seizure?”

The family friend who called 911 responded, “24, he just got out the hospital today.”

Denver Health notified of death

Paramedics would take Brumm to Platte Valley Medical Center where an emergency room doctor pronounced Joshua Brumm dead at 8:38 p.m.

Emergency room records from Platte Valley Medical center show the ER Doctor called Denver Health at 9:21 p.m. and according to his notes wrote, “A courtesy call was given to Denver Health trauma service” and that the physician on-call “was made aware of the patient’s passing.”

The Denver Health doctor who took the call from Platte Valley Medical Center was the physician on-call and the director of surgery for Denver Health at the time (and was not involved in Mr. Brumm’s care).  A spokeswoman for Denver Health initially told the Problem Solvers that the on-call physician didn’t report Brumm’s death to the Department of Patient Safety and Quality inside of Denver Health and in turn, Denver Health didn’t report Brumm’s death to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) until it was contacted from someone at CDPHE more than five months later on May 7.  Denver Health refutes this.  In a statement released by Denver Health after our initial report aired, Denver Health said that once Platte Valley notified Denver Health of Brumm’s death, the physician on-call immediately alerted various individuals and internal departments.

According to attorney Hollynd Hoskins, CDPHE was made aware of Brumm’s death after she filed a complaint citing poor quality of care against Denver Health. She provided FOX31 with a copy of a complaint survey completed by CDPHE on May 5 that found zero deficiencies with the hospital’s facility. But a spokesman for CDPHE acknowledged his department doesn’t have the authority to investigate complaints about quality of care or individual patient outcomes.

“I’m angry obviously. Crushed that (Denver Health) just couldn’t keep him a few more days,” said Lynn Brumm. “If he had coded in that hospital bed, there would’ve been hospital staff doing CPR on him instead of his mother because that will haunt me until the day I die.”

Family seeks answers

Joshua Brumm’s oldest sister, Morgan, described her brother as her “absolute best friend.” She wears a locket around her neck that includes a picture of the two siblings. She also has his fingerprint stamped on a piece of silver she wears around her neck.

Friends wore flannel at Joshua’s funeral to honor his favorite clothing and wrote final messages on his casket in memory of a person who always made time for others.

“I could call him, and he was at work and he would answer me. It could be 2 a.m., he answered me. He was always there for me,” said Morgan Brumm.

 Joshua’s father, Scott Brumm, told FOX31 he wants answers from Denver Health, including why doctors told the family Joshua wouldn’t be released before Dec. 5 following his kidney surgery but was then suddenly released Dec. 2.

“It surprised me when (Joshua) called and said (Denver Health is) letting me go today. I’m like, ‘What? They said minimum Friday, why?’” said Scott Brumm.

Scott told FOX31 he also doesn’t understand why medical records show his son was given blood thinners like Lovenox when Scott Brumm remembered a doctor telling his son early on that he shouldn’t be given any blood thinners.

“I think there were procedures that were missed,” said Scott Brumm. Lynn, his ex-wife and Joshua’s mother, is blunter.

“They were hoping to sweep it under the rug,” she said.

Cover-up allegations

The Brumms and Hoskins, their attorney, find it curious that Joshua’s discharge paperwork wasn’t signed by doctors until Dec. 3, the day after he died. The document reads in part, “On the day of discharge the patient’s pain was well-controlled with Tylenol.”

The doctor who removed Joshua’s kidney on Nov. 28, didn’t sign her post-operation notes until six days later on Dec. 4.

At that time, Joshua had been dead for two days.

“Where the doctors and the surgeon don’t complete their operative note and the discharge summary until after they learned about Joshua’s death and the way that those reports were written to go out of their way that Joshua Brumm was fine, really raises serious concerns that there was a post death cover-up,” said Hoskins.

“When months after they told us they didn’t know, that Denver Health did not know (of Joshua’s death), they knew, they knew,” said Lynn Brumm.

Denver health response

FOX31 previously asked Denver Health if the on-call physician told other doctors who treated Joshua Brumm of the 24-year old’s death before the discharge papers and post-surgery report were written but didn’t receive a response by our original deadline.

On Thursday, July 7, Denver Health emailed FOX31 a new statement disputing a spokeswoman ever acknowledged to the Problem Solvers that the physician on-call didn’t notify appropriate people within Denver Health but doesn’t say if the division of Risk Management/Patient Safety and Quality was notified.

Denver Health statement:

The death of Joshua Brumm is tragic. Denver Health continues to extend sympathies to the family at this very difficult time. 

Denver Health categorically denies there was a cover up in this incident. As indicated in our statement to Fox 31, “After another facility notified us of his death, Denver Health conducted a thorough and immediate review of the care provided to Mr. Brumm. Denver Health complied with State regulatory requirements, and the incident was reported by Denver Health to CDPHE.”

We are disappointed that this already sad story is being complicated by these distortions. The reporter also states that “a spokeswoman for Denver Health told the Problem Solvers that the physician on-call never reported Brumm’s death to the Department of Patient Safety and Quality inside of Denver Health.” That is inaccurate.

Once Platte Valley notified Denver Health of Mr. Brumm’s death, the physician on-call immediately alerted various individuals and internal departments. Again, Denver Health conducted a thorough and immediate review of our patient care and processes.

The doctor’s actions following that notification were appropriate. He was the on-call Trauma Surgeon at the time of the notification and was not involved in the patient’s care.

CDPHE expressly found that this was not an event which needed to be reported.  Specifically, the state made no findings and the statements were:  This issue does not meet the occurrence reporting elements.

Lawsuit likely

Denver Health billed Joshua’s insurance company more than a $500,000 for his care. Under Colorado law, Denver Health Medical Center enjoys a level of government immunity because it’s considered a publicly owned entity, which normally means it can’t be sued for more than $350,000.

Attorney Hollynd Hoskins nonetheless intends to seek $10 million because she said Colorado law allows an exception to the state medical malpractice cap for public entities, if gross negligence can be proven.

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