Articles Posted in Brain Injury

This appeal is from the district court’s dismissal, on statute of limitations grounds, of a medical malpractice lawsuit. The plaintiff, Johnnie Watkins, filed the action on behalf of her adult daughter, Johnnice Ford, who is a disabled person. The lawsuit alleged that Ford sought treatment at the emergency room of Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Chicago where she was treated by a doctor who was an employee of Family Christian Health Center. This facility was operated pursuant to grant money from the Public Health Services, an agency of the U.S. government. The lawsuit was brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), and the United States is the defendant.

In the lawsuit, it was asserted that the treating physician chose not to correctly diagnose and treat Ford who was eventually correctly diagnosed with Wernicke’s encephalopathy and who sustained neurological injuries, including permanent disability. Encephalopathy is a general term that describes a disease that damages the brain. Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by a severe vitamin B1 deficiency. Parts of the brain may be damaged as a result of this deficiency causing increased difficulty with memory, movement, vision and coordination.

The federal district court judge dismissed the lawsuit that was filed beyond the relevant statute of limitations. Watkins appealed that dismissal order to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
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It is no secret that thousands of American patients die or are permanently and seriously injured by medical providers. More than 250,000 Americans die in hospitals every year due to medical errors. That staggering number makes deaths in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and long-term care centers the third most common cause of death in the United States. The number of Americans who die because of the negligent errors made by medical providers is higher than those who die because of respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the causes of the deaths are not isolated to one common medical practice area.

The Johns Hopkins research involves a comprehensive analysis of four large studies. According to a report a year ago by the Washington Post, the Johns Hopkins report took into account studies from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality between 2000 to 2008. The calculation of 251,000 deaths in a year amounts to nearly 700 deaths a day — about 9.5 percent of all deaths annually in the United States.
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Kelly Wolfe was 56 years old when he was involved in a motorcycle crash. Paramedics from the city of Grand Prairie arrived at the crash location where they found him alert and breathing regularly. The paramedics attempted unsuccessfully to intubate Wolfe. The paramedics undertook the intubation even though Wolfe told the paramedics that he wanted to go home.

A helicopter service operated by PHI Air Medical Inc. came to the scene to transport Wolfe to a nearby hospital. Before the helicopter transport, the paramedics provided the PHI Air personnel with a paralyzing agent to facilitate Wolfe’s intubation.For some reason, the paramedics were determined that intubation was the thing to do.

Twenty minutes later, when Wolfe arrived at the hospital, he was deemed brain dead due to prolonged oxygen deprivation. Wolfe subsequently died. He had been working as a paramedic instructor, earning about $50,000 per year. He is survived by his three children, one of whom was a minor.

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A  Springfield, Mo., jury signed a verdict for $28.9 million for a 24-year-old woman who sustained a devastating brain injury caused by a rare copper disorder. The lawsuit, brought in Greene County, Mo., claimed that a local hospital’s medical staff chose not to correctly diagnose and treat Emilee Williams’ symptoms. In fact, it was alleged that the hospital took the position that it did not need to do a full and complete neurological exam even though Williams presented to the hospital with symptoms. The hospital dismissed her symptoms as anxiety.

It was in December 2012 that Williams presented to the hospital. She was examined by Dr. Elene Pilapil with complaints of fatigue, tremors, balance issues, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, crying spells and anxiety. Dr. Pilapil diagnosed Williams with anxiety and did not consider ordering more diagnostic testing. A prescription for Prozac was written and Williams was sent home. Eight months later, not until August 2013, was an MRI finally ordered that showed that Williams was brain damaged, caused by the previously undiagnosed Wilson’s disease. This was done only after Emilee and her mother continued to complain to the doctor that Emilee had something much more significant happening to her than just anxiety.

As it was proved at trial, Williams had undiagnosed Wilson’s disease. This disease, although rare, causes too much copper to accumulate in the liver, brain and other vital organs, which was the cause of her devastating permanent injuries. Williams was a former high school student and athlete, but today is limited from paralysis, motor and speech impairment and must be fed through a tube in her stomach.
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On Oct. 30, 2009, J.S. (DOB: 5/7/09) suffered a bilateral tension pneumothorax at the defendant hospital, which resulted in a cardiopulmonary arrest for 23 minutes. A bilateral tension pneumothorax is a medical emergency, and it requires immediate treatment. This 6-month-old child was a post-cardiac surgical patient who suffered from chronic lung disease and was ventilator dependent. He was at an elevated risk of suffering from pneumothoraxes.

He also was born prematurely and was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. It was anticipated before this event that J.S. would have been discharged the next day.

By 9:30 p.m. that night, J.S.’s treating physicians should have entertained a differential diagnosis that included pneumothorax (collapsed lung) based upon J.S.’s clinical presentation (ashen colored, diminished and labored breathing), as well as pH of 7.15. The standard of care was a stat chest x-ray at bedside.
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When Chelsea Weekley was about five months old, she suffered a skull fracture. The fracture expanded over time and a cyst was formed on her skull. At age 17, Chelsea was hit on the head and suffered a loss of consciousness, blurred vision and dizziness.

After CT and MRI scans confirmed the extent of the skull fracture and cyst, Chelsea underwent a canaloplasty surgery to repair the fracture and the area where the cyst had formed. The surgery was done at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis by the defendant Dr. Ann Flannery, a neurosurgeon, and by Dr. Raghuram Sampath, a neurosurgical resident.

Chelsea was discharged a day after the surgery and was found dead in her bed just three days later. An autopsy was completed, which found that Chelsea had died from a seizure brought about by the surgical damage.
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Andrea Tate was 57 when she underwent surgery to remove a noncancerous tumor at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. After the surgery, the staff at the hospital administered Heparin to prevent blood clots. Tate’s coagulation rate was measured using an activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) test.

Over the next six days, four consecutive APTT tests revealed that Tate’s coagulation was moving from the low end of the normal range to the high end of normal. As a result, the hospital staff stopped doing the test.

Days later, Tate suffered a catastrophic brain bleed. Previously a financial services project manager earning $100,000 a year, she is now paralyzed in her right leg and on her left side. She is mostly confined to bed and requires 24-hour care provided by her husband, who has left his job to take care of his wife.
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Lee Lyman was 51 years old when he underwent successful aortic valve surgery at Sacred Heart River Bend Medical Center.  Anesthesia was provided by Dr. Albert Cho of Northwest Anesthesia, P.C. While in the operating room, Lyman began to experience ventricular fibrillation. He was given electrical shock and prescribed medications, which included 150 milligrams of antiarrhythmic Amiodarone, to be given over a 30-minute period.

Instead of giving the prescribed dose, Dr. Cho gave Lyman 2,700 milligrams of Amiodarone, which came from a combination of 3 separate 900-mg bottles. After Lyman received the excessive dose, his heart stopped pumping adequate blood. This led to anoxic brain damage and partial paralysis. Lyman will need 24-hour per day care for the rest of his life. He had been a millwright earning about $21 per hour before the surgery.

Lyman, through a representative for his disabled person’s estate, brought a lawsuit against the corporation that owned the hospital, Dr. Cho and Northwest Anesthesia claiming negligent administration of an excessive dose of Amiodarone.

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Danielle Reardon underwent endoscopic sinus surgery with bilateral septoplasty at Tinley Woods Surgery Center in Tinley Park, Ill., on Dec. 7, 2005. The surgery was completed by the defendant, Dr. Joseph Gavron, who is an otolaryngologist. Dr. Gavron was to treat Reardon’s chronic pansinusitis and deviated nasal septum. At the end of the surgery, Dr. Gavron packed her nose with gel, foam and gauze soaked in a topical antibiotic. No oral post-op antibiotics were prescribed by Dr. Gavron.

She experienced what were described as unbearable headaches while recovering the next day. With no relief from the headaches, she took two doses of Vicodin. Continuing with the unbearable headaches, Reardon called 911 and was transported by ambulance to Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., where she given two doses of morphine and the antibiotic Unasyn.

She later became unresponsive with an altered state of consciousness. She was then treated empirically with broad spectrum antibiotics for bacterial meningitis.

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Joyce Williamson was 73 years old when she underwent surgery to treat spinal cord compression caused from cervical stenosis. Cervical stenosis is a slowly progressing condition that impinges on the spinal cord section of the neck. It can be very painful.

Several days after her surgery, she complained of shoulder weakness and then underwent an MRI of the cervical spine. The results showed fluid collecting, but no compression of the spinal cord. Her condition worsened. Her rehabilitation physician contacted her treating neurosurgeon who was Dr. George Shanno.

Dr. Shanno evaluated Williamson several hours later and gave a different diagnosis of stroke or epidural hematoma. An epidural hematoma is the traumatic accumulation of blood between the tough outer membrane of the nervous system and the skull. An epidural hematoma would usually occur because of a sudden and blunt blow to the head or in the event of a skull fracture.

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