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El Paso mother speaks after daughter died following misdiagnosis and surgery

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- It's been over five months since the death of Nancy Limas' young daughter. Now, the El Paso mother is turning her pain into advocacy.

In September 2023, Nancy Limas took her 11-year-old daughter Jessie to the University Medical Center clinic in Northeast El Paso. Jessie had been complaining about extreme stomach discomfort and inexplicable constipation. Jessie was transferred to El Paso Children's Hospital.

11-year-old Jessie Limas

Limas was told her daughter would need to undergo a procedure to repair a twisted intestine. As a nurse herself, Limas was hesitant about her daughter getting this procedure, saying she had a "bad feeling."

"They told me that it was a twisted intestine and that she needed emergency surgery, that there was only, the only solution for that, that it was an emergency situation," Limas told ABC-7.

After surgery, Jessie repeatedly told her mom she was in pain as she experienced nausea and pressure in her abdomen. 

"It brings me to tears, to see her face and remember when she looked at me in the eyes, and she was pleading for help," Limas said, wiping her eyes. "She was saying, 'Mommy help.' And she held my hand tight, tight, tight. And I grabbed her hands and I told her, 'I'm doing everything I can.'

"And I did. But unfortunately, they didn't do what they were supposed to."

Limas said she called for doctors or nurses to check on her daughter, but her pleas went unanswered for nine hours. 

"And they kept saying it was part of the surgery and that it was normal," Limas said, adding, "But I noticed that it was progressively increasing."

Limas continued to report the signs and symptoms that her daughter was experiencing. Jessie was eventually taken back to the operating room, where she went into cardiac arrest and died. 

"I never was able to speak with my daughter again, say bye to her, explain her. She was not able to tell me what was going on," she said. 

It was later revealed, during the initial procedure, that Jessie's intestine was perforated, causing leakage and bleeding that ultimately caused her death. It was also discovered, there was no twisted intestine. Rather, what the CT scan had shown was scar tissue from a surgery Jessie had when she was a baby to repair a congenital issue with her diaphragm. It was an issue Limas said had not impacted her daughter's health since then. 

Nancy Limas, left, holds Jessie as a baby. Courtesy: Nancy Limas

Limas explained her daughter had just started middle school. She said Jessie loved playing the violin and all things makeup. She wanted to become a beauty blogger. 

She said her daughter, who was one of three siblings, was a fighter.

Jessie Limas, left, poses with her brother for a photo. Courtesy: Nancy Limas

"She's my miracle baby, my warrior," Limas said, adding, "And (she) gave me a reason to live."

Following her daughter's death, Limas called on several state agencies to investigate the hospital and its handling of Jessie's care. 

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services conducted an investigation and stated in two reports obtained by ABC-7, "Based on the results of the investigation, El Paso Children's Hospital was found to not be in compliance with the applicable laws and rules over which our department has regulatory authority, resulting in deficiencies being cited for one or more federal or State regulations.”

The agency also said, "Based on the review ... the governing body failed to ensure its medical staff was accountable for the quality of care provided when the declining state (of patient) was not addressed in a timely manner."

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, which staffed the doctors and surgeons who tended to Jessie, sent the family an apology letter, which stated:

"Please know we have worked with our hospital partner, El Paso Children's Hospital, to understand what happened and to identify systemic failures and treatment issues that contributed to Jessie Limas' death. Both institutions are fully committed to ongoing peer reviews of the situation, which will be focused on implementing changes to address the issues we identify and prevent a similar occurrence in the future."

ABC-7 reached out to El Paso Children's Hospital for a statement on Jessie's care.

A spokesperson wrote, "El Paso Children’s Hospital takes great pride in our high level of pediatric healthcare services, which keeps children home for specialized treatment. Due to this ongoing legal matter and federal patient privacy concerns, we are not able to provide further comment at this time."

ABC-7 also reached out to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. Officials stated, "Texas Tech Health El Paso cannot comment on legal matters or active reviews, however, we will continue cooperating fully in assessing the events of that day."

In lieu of a lawsuit, Limas said she won't stop advocating for change, so her daughter's death isn't in vain. She said she is scheduled to meet with El Paso Children's Hospital on April 9.

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Rosemary Montañez

ABC-7 reporter and weekend anchor


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