Updated at 4:32 p.m. with additional comments from the family's attorney.
In a motion filed Tuesday in Tarrant County District Court, attorneys representing the family of Tinslee Lewis are requesting a new doctor be allowed to treat the 17-month-old girl.
The toddler has been hospitalized since birth with grave lung and heart problems. For months, there has been a legal battle between Cook Children's Medical Center and Tinslee's family regarding the continuance of care.
“She is still fighting,” said Kimberlyn Schwartz with Texas Right to Life, which has been advocating for and with the family. “We have new hope for her.”
According to the motion filed this week, a doctor says he has reviewed Tinslee's medical records and believes her condition is treatable.
Attorneys are now asking the court to require Cook Children’s Medical Center to grant emergency privileges to Dr. Glenn E. Green to evaluate Tinslee for airway malacia and perform a tracheostomy.
At this time, Tinslee is not allowed to be moved from Cook Children’s Medical Center without the hospital agreeing to emergency privileges for a doctor to perform a tracheostomy and providing care following the procedure, according to court documents.
The family says they were unable to file the motion in March because the COVID-19 pandemic limited Dr. Green’s ability to travel.
"The hospital will not perform this routine procedure without imposing restrictions that are either medically inappropriate or that require the Plaintiffs to consent to Cook declining to provide life-sustaining treatment, such as signing a 'Do Not Resuscitate' order," attorneys claim in court documents.
Tinslee's condition requires her to be hooked up to machines so she can breathe and eat. The hospital said in court filings that Tinslee experiences a "dying event" nearly every day, and the medical staff has to manually inflate her lungs to keep her alive.
Hospital staff believes keeping Tinslee alive is causing her pain. Attorneys for the hospital wrote in a brief to the appellate court January that Tinslee experiences a "dying event" nearly every day, forcing medical personnel to manually inflate her lungs.
Request for tracheostomy
Dr. Green says that Tinslee's episodes of severe desaturation, described as “dying spells” may be attributable to underlying airway issues which are often treatable, according to Texas Right to Life.
A tracheostomy could help.
The procedure "would make her independent of an ICU setting and would actually benefit her breathing,” Schwartz said. “The end goal is to get her transferred into palliative care and then eventually home with some home health support.”
Schwartz said the family has told her organization Tinslee’s health “has actually improved a bit. She’s less reliant on some medications and less reliant on the ventilator.”
The family revoked the hospital’s ability to talk about the case, so Cook Children’s could not comment on these latest developments. Hospital representatives have not said what Tinslee's current condition is.
Currently no other hospital is lined up to take Tinslee, but Schwartz said non-ICU medical care would assess her if a tracheostomy is performed to see if another hospital could take the girl.
Dr. Patrick Roughneen, a physician from Galveston, Texas, also assessed Tinslee in person, and agreed with Dr. Green, according to Texas Right to Life.
Both doctors filed declarations with the court stating that the tracheostomy request was medically appropriate.
"Baby T.L. has been on a ventilator for over 10 months. It is not within the standard realm of care to leave a patient on a ventilator this long and refuse a tracheostomy," Dr. Roughneen partially said in a written statement.
Once the tracheostomy is performed and Tinslee is evaluated, attorneys are requesting she be transferred to another facility in accordance with her mother's wishes, according to court documents.
Cook Children’s Medical Center had not yet filed a response at the time this story was published.
However, in legal documents filed earlier this year, doctors said the prolonged medical treatments are only causing Tinslee pain.
“Experienced pediatric nurses and doctors — who have dedicated their lives to treating the sickest children — are unable to reconcile with their ethical duties the excruciating but pointless pain they must cause [Tinslee] every single day,” the hospital said in a brief filed in January.
The brief also stated the doctors and nurses are used to performing “painful treatments on children every day without shirking” but that is in cases where they know they are helping the pediatric patient improve.
In Tinslee’s case, “the medical staff inflicts pain that — it is undisputed — will not help her get better,” the document states.
When hospital staff were still allowed to speak about the baby's treatment, they said Tinslee’s lung and heart conditions are terminal, and that keeping her on life-saving machines is hurting her, not helping her.
“She's suffering as a result of the things we're doing for her to stay alive,” Cook Children’s Wini King said back in December.
More on WFAA:
- Tinslee Lewis turns 1, days before next step in legal battle over her life
- Baby Tinslee's mother speaks after court allows fight over baby's life to continue
- Court of appeals grants emergency relief for baby Tinslee
- Baby Tinslee given 7 days to live after judge denies injunction
- 'She is in pain,' doctor testifies in court battle over baby Tinslee's life