$15.26 Million Jury Verdict for Brain Damaged Patient Caused by Negligent Removal of Tracheostomy Tube

Following an automobile accident, Cody Wade, 17, was hospitalized. The injuries he suffered in the car crash led the hospital’s staff to place a tracheostomy tube to help with Cody’s breathing. A tracheostomy is a surgical procedure in which a doctor creates an opening through the neck to the patient’s windpipe or trachea. The tube is placed through that opening to give the patient an airway and to allow for the removal of other secretions from the lungs. The tube itself is called a tracheostomy tube or a trach tube.

About a month after the tracheostomy, a hospital staff person removed the trach tube in anticipation of Cody’s transferral to a rehabilitation hospital. When the tube was removed, Cody experienced tachycardia and labored breathing. Tachycardia is a condition of rapid heartbeat. Generally, a resting heart rate over 100 beats per minute is considered tachycardic. 

Because of Cody’s condition, the trach tube was reinserted. Medical tests revealed that there was swelling in Cody’s airway.

The next day, Cody was transferred to a rehabilitation center with orders that he return to the hospital’s surgical clinic in two weeks for a checkup and to plan for slowly downsizing and capping off the trach tube. This appointment was not kept. The rehabilitation hospital personnel initiated the capping trials. Cody was inconsistent with his ability to tolerate having his trach tube capped. However, the family practice physician on duty removed the trach tube. 

On the same day, Cody complained of breathing problems. This continued and early the next morning he complained that he felt that something was caught in his throat. The family practice physician prescribed Xanax to help Cody rest.  However, several hours later, Cody suffered respiratory distress. 

More than 20 minutes later, an ambulance was called to the rehab center to transfer Cody to the nearest hospital.  Before he arrived, he suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest, which resulted in anoxic brain damage. An anoxic brain injury is the result of a patient receiving low oxygen. Brain cells without enough oxygen will begin to deteriorate and die after only about four minutes. 

Later testing showed that Cody suffered subglottic stenosis in the area that previously showed swelling. This is the airway in which the trach tube was placed.

A lawsuit was brought on behalf of Cody by his parents, who sued the rehabilitation hospital and the family practice physician, alleging negligence for choosing not to recognize that Cody’s airway was compromised. The parents also alleged that the rehab staff and physician failed to timely consult the appropriate medical specialist about this condition and promptly transport their son to a hospital for treatment. 

The jury’s verdict was $15.26 million.  The attorney for Cody Wade’s family was Randall Kinnard, Mary Ellen Morris and Roy Harron.

Wade v. Volunteer State Health Plan, No. 4253 (Tenn., Weakley Co. Cir. July 3, 2013).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling hospital negligence cases, nursing home negligence case, physician negligence and medical malpractice cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Des Plaines, Palos Park, Hinsdale, Midlothian, Country Club Hills, South Holland, Chicago (Lake Calumet, Pullman, Englewood, Hyde Park, Rogers Park), Burbank, Countryside, Lyons, Niles and Blue Island, Ill.

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