CHICAGO – Sitting in her hospital room in Marion, Ill., 17-year-old Kassie Hopkins knew something was wrong when she looked at the newborn officials told her she had given birth to a day before.
Mary Jo Bathon had the same feeling but left Heartland Regional Medical Center with the hospital's assurance that the baby she had was her son. She headed home to Pinckeyville, an hour away, making a stop to buy baby supplies.
But in fact, hospital workers had inadvertently switched the babies.
They sent Bathon home with Hopkins' son, leaving 17-year-old Hopkins in her hospital room, worried about her son's whereabouts, attorney John Womick said Friday after suing on the women's behalf in Williamson County Court.
"Kassie, she's having trouble communicating how she feels," Womick said Friday. "All she can do pretty much is cry. She's now paranoid. She's very concerned about something happening to her baby."
The hospital realized the mix-up and called Bathon at home the same day, March 28, and left a message on her answering machine asking her to return to Marion to retrieve her real son, Womick said.
Womick said he wants the court to require the hospital to investigate what led to the switch and take steps to make sure it does not happen again. The lawsuits seek monetary damages of more than $50,000 for each woman and a jury trial.
The lawsuits name Heartland Regional Medical Center and its parent company, Community Health Systems Inc., of Franklin, Tenn., as defendants.
"We genuinely regret the circumstances surrounding the discharge of these infants," hospital spokeswoman Staci Bynum said Friday. "Fortunately, the situation was quickly identified and corrected within hours, with both healthy babies being joined with their families."
The switch apparently occurred when Bathon's son, Hunter Allen Bathon, and Hopkins' son, Riley Howard Spencer, were taken at the same time to be circumcised. Both wore identification, Womick said, but "apparently both came off and they put the wrong ones back on."
The hospital claims it conducted DNA testing to identify the boys, Womick said.
Womick said the lawsuits could protect future mothers in the region.
"If you're a mom and you've got to go in next week and you're going to be scared to death," Womick said. "They need to publish publicly what happened and then publish publicly what they're going to do."