Companion lied about teen drinker Hospital says it treated Brian Ball as accident victim.

August 14, 1991|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Evening Sun Staff

Doctors initially treated the 15-year-old who died from an alcohol overdose last weekend as an auto accident victim because one of the teen-agers who dumped the boy at a Salisbury hospital Friday lied about his


The teen told a nurse that Brian C. Ball had been found along a road, an apparent victim of an auto accident. Actually, the teen knew that Brian had downed as many as 26 shots of liquor at a large, teen-age drinking party they all attended outside of Salisbury.

The carload of youths fled before hospital personnel could ask more questions about Brian, whom the teens left outside the emergency room at Peninsula General Hospital Medical Center, Dr. Robert T. Adkins, medical director at the hospital's department of emergency services, said yesterday.

Maryland State Police are trying to locate and interview the teens involved in the incident.

Brian, an honor student and green belt in karate from Trenton, Texas, was visiting relatives in Salisbury last week.

Doctors did not realize exactly how much alcohol Brian had consumed until receiving the results of a blood alcohol test. It usually takes 45 minutes to one hour to get the results of that test, Adkins said.

Adkins said he believes physicians probably would not have been able to save Brian even if the teens who took him to the hospital had told them the truth about his drinking.

"It would certainly help any of us if we had the proper [medical] history," Adkins said. "In this particular instance, however, I don't feel personally that the incorrect information affected Brian's medical chances. I think he probably was brain dead when he arrived."

Lacking other information, doctors treated Brian as if he had suffered trauma, such as from an accident. They spent at least a minute putting Brian, who was unconscious and not breathing, on a back board and in a neck brace before moving him into the hospital, Adkins said.

Doctors attempted to restore oxygen to his body by inserting a breathing tube. They then took what turned out to be unnecessary spine and chest X-rays.

"We probably did more than we needed to do, in retrospect, but we did nothing we shouldn't have done and nothing out of the sequence that medical protocol would have required," Adkins said.

Adkins said he supposed that hospital personnel realized that Brian had been drinking. "It doesn't take a very sophisticated nose to tell he'd been drinking," he said.

Two possible treatments for acute alcohol intoxication include a blood-cleansing procedure and stomach pumping, Adkins said. Doctors did not perform either procedure, he said, and might not have done so even if they had known immediately that Brian was suffering from alcohol poisoning.

The blood-cleansing procedure has not been proven to work, Adkins said, and the boy did not require stomach pumping.

Adkins believes the boy might have choked on his own vomit before arriving at the hospital, which would have cut off the oxygen needed to keep his brain alive. If someone had held his head to the side while he vomited, the doctor said, Brian's condition might not have been so serious.

Dr. Donald G. Wright, state deputy chief medical examiner, said an autopsy did not reveal that Brian died from choking on vomit but rather from acute alcohol intoxication. Brian had an extremely high blood alcohol level -- 0.37 percent -- that likely depressed his respiratory system so much that he could not get enough oxygen into his body.

Reached in Salisbury yesterday, the boy's mother, Janice H. Ball, said she plans to talk to the teens in Trenton about the dangers of alcohol. "We're already organizing so I can talk to the kids back home," she said.

Mrs. Ball said Brian would have started driving next March. "We already started talking to Brian. We told him the facts about what would happen [with alcohol]."

She described her only son as a very special, quiet teen, and said she did not blame anyone for what happened to him.

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