The family of a third grade student at the Bristol Elementary school in the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves, Missouri, is furious, after they claim officials failed to seek immediate medical attention for the boy after he severed his finger in the classroom.
His family says because of the administration’s “negligence” regarding his injury, doctors were unable to save the finger and had to perform an amputation on the child.
Talisa Pierce, DJ Williams’ mother, who also happens to be a pediatric nurse, said she was told on Monday, April 18 that her son sustained a “gash” on his middle finger after tripping into a metal cabinet in his classroom.
The family reports the accident was more serious than was originally described to them, causing the mom to later secure an attorney after Missouri Baptist’s emergency room told her they couldn’t operate anymore on the 9-year-old’s finger and he needed to be transferred to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital by ambulance because the surgeons at the facility needed to amputate.
Tim Engelmeyer, the family’s lawyer, spoke to the press and shared, “From our perspective, at first glance, it appears that 911 should have been called and he should have been transported immediately instead of waiting for his grandfather to come pick him up.”
“[DJ’s] finger is literally hanging on the file cabinet,” the attorney continued. “So this is not something where it was just a scratch or a little bit of skin that was taken off, there’s a significant part of his finger that everyone knew had been removed from his hand.”
The family says a piece of the boy’s finger was missing and the mother had to text the school to see if they could find it so she could share it with the specialist to see if they could possibly salvage the finger during his surgery.
The mother claims the school’s nurse sent a photo of the missing portion of DJ’s finger. It was still attached to the metal cart, but could not be used for the boy’s initial surgery.
The mother went to the school to pick up the finger to bring with her to the orthopedic surgeon on Friday, April 22, for a follow-up visit to the procedure Williams had at the kids hospital.
At the last report, the mother was waiting to hear from the specialist about the next steps. One of the extreme measures proposed according to KIRO 7 is that the boy’s entire hand be amputated.
The lawyer says the family is still trying to collect all of the details about the accident.
He said what they did know is that the accident happened around 2 or 2:20 p.m on April 18 and that the boy tripped and “his hand became lodged or sliced on a very sharp edge of a computer cabinet/filing cabinet.”
After further inquiry on the family’s part, they discovered, “part of the finger was removed from the hand during the fall, and it remained on the filing cabinet,” KAKE reports.
The family also knows the school did not call 911 and has asked for the school to “protect or secure video and other communications from that day.”
“Any chances there were to re-attach the part of the finger that was lost, those chances kind of went out the window when emergency, 911 wasn’t called,” Engelmeyer stated.
The attorney said that knowledge makes him sad, especially as he claims the boy asked his doctors at the hospital, “When is my finger gonna grow back?”
In response to the incident, the school district released a statement on Tuesday, April 19, saying, “Webster Groves School District is aware of reports of an accident, a fall, that occurred at Bristol Elementary School on Monday, April 18, 2022, that may have resulted in injury to a student requiring medical attention. The District is always concerned for and committed to the health and safety of its students and is currently investigating the accident in question.”
Williams says on the day of the accident he slipped on his backpack and fell into the computer cabinet. When describing the fall, he said, “I used these three fingers to kind of pull myself. My middle finger was on the edge of it, and then it cut it.”
His school called Pierce to ask if she or her father, Larry Pierce, could come and pick Williams up after the accident. When the grandfather arrived the boy’s hand had already been bandaged, but despite being wrapped it was still bleeding.
The grandfather said, “The nurse says, ‘OK, he cut his hand.’ Didn’t say how bad it was but said take him to urgent care. They unwrap it and immediately said, ‘Oh no. We can’t treat this. His finger is gone.”
Larry said he was startled after seeing the bone sticking out of the boy’s middle finger, and asked, “How do you send a child home with his finger cut off and just pass it on without calling 911 at the school?”
At this point, the grandfather took his grandchild to a local hospital and met up with his daughter, Talisa. Despite her experience as a medical professional, she said she was not prepared to see her child’s injuries.
“I see injuries every day at work, and I can tolerate them,” she said. “But to see my child, I couldn’t tolerate it.”
The mother questions why the cabinet, which was open when the child fell into it, was in the classroom in the first place.
“I don’t even see why that is even in a classroom. If it’s in a classroom, that needs to be closed at all times,” Pierce questioned. “I do feel it was negligence because, first protocol, I feel 911 should have been called.”
According to Pierce, her son wanted to someday play basketball professionally, saying it is “his dream” and it is “all that he talks about.”
But the resilient Williams has no pessimism, believing that if he keeps his mind on the sport, it will provide him the constitution to never give up on his dream.
“I just got to think about basketball,” he says. “If I think about it enough, then I won’t give up.”