Articles Posted in Neurology Errors

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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Nakeyia McMichael, a 33-year-old nurse, was hospitalized for treatment for a cerebral edema. Just 18 months later she returned to the hospital’s emergency room complaining of head pain, nausea and vomiting.

Two hospital emergency department residents and the defendant, Dr. John Pakiela, an osteopath employed by General Emergency Medical Specialists, diagnosed her with a migraine headache and discharged her with medicine. The very next day, she became unresponsive and died. The cause was determined to be brain herniation resulting from the cerebral edema or brain swell. McMichael was survived by her husband and three minor children.

The McMichael family sued Dr. Pakiela and his employer alleging that he failed to refer her to a neurologist for further workup. The McMichael family claimed that in light of her medical history, Dr. Pakiela should have reviewed her medical records before discharging her and should have considered cerebral edema as a possible cause of her renewed symptoms. The doctor should have ruled out the most deadly and dangerous of illnesses or conditions.

A Will County jury has found that a stroke suffered by the son of Kathy Nakamura was not preventable by anticoagulant treatment by his physicians. In this medical-malpractice lawsuit, it was alleged that several physicians chose not to treat the medical conditions of Kathy Nakamura’s son, Joseph Welsh, which led to his suffering two strokes in five months. He was left with severe mental deficiencies after the second stroke in April 2009.

Welsh was admitted to Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill., in November 2008. He was seen by neurologist Konstantine Dzamashvili, M.D. and Rizwan Bajwa, M.D. after he suffered a stroke caused by a blood clot in his brain. Welsh had a history of smoking and hypertension and cholesterol issues. The doctors believe that the blood clot came from somewhere in his neck or his brain stem. They tested Welsh for atherosclerotic heart disease; the test came back negative. When imaging tests were done, it showed that Welsh had a membrane open between the right and left sides of his heart.

Welsh was also tested for Factor V Leiden thrombophilia, which is a hereditary disorder that can increase the risk of blood clots in the veins.

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Angelica Heavner, 41, went to the hospital emergency room for treatment of jaw and head pain. A hospital employee placed an IV into Heavner’s metacarpal vein on her right hand. The insertion of the IV caused her to develop a blister at that site, plus burning and stinging pain.

The IV was not removed immediately. Heavner developed complications and was later diagnosed with having complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) of the right hand, which necessitated medication and a spinal cord stimulator. CRPS, or reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, causes chronic pain in patients who have contracted it. The cause of CRPS is varied. In some cases, the cause of CRPS is the dysfunction in the central or peripheral nervous system.

Heavner filed a lawsuit against the hospital, alleging its employee negligently inserted the IV, which resulted in nerve contact and thus was the cause of the CRPS. The lawsuit also maintained that the defendant’s failure to promptly identify the problem and remove the IV led to the chronic pain syndrome. There was no claim for lost income.

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Finis Cuff, 61, had a history of smoking and other health problems, including diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. When Cuff experienced elevated blood pressure, primary care physician Dr. Douglas Keagle prescribed medicine. Cuff’s blood pressure continued to rise, and he returned to Dr. Keagle who prescribed a different blood pressure medication. He then instructed Cuff, whose blood pressure had risen to as high as 200/80, to monitor his blood pressure.

Two days later, Cuff suffered a massive ischemic stroke, resulting in brain damage and lost functioning in both of his legs and right arm.

He sued Dr. Keagle alleging that he chose not to diagnose an impending stroke and refer him to a hospital for an immediate workup. The lawsuit did not claim lost income.

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Sara Perez, 30, suffered a seizure and collapsed. She was admitted to a hospital where doctors diagnosed a noncancerous brain tumor. Upon discharge, Perez was referred to another medical center where a physician recommended surgery to remove the tumor. The next month, she underwent preoperative blood work and an MRI. A month after that, an anesthesiologist cleared Perez for surgery and she was told that the hospital would call her to schedule the procedure. However, the hospital did not call to schedule that surgery.

At the next physician appointment several months later, Perez signed a second consent form. Perez then underwent another battery of preoperative tests and again was cleared for surgery. Several more months passed. No surgery was scheduled.

The noncancerous tumor grew larger, and Perez suffered a second seizure and midline shift of her brain, which led to her death 13 months after the first seizure. Perez had been a customer service dispatcher earning $10 per hour and is survived by her husband and three young children.

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Patricia McCleod, 49, suffered from pain, numbness and tingling in her left leg. A plastic surgeon, Dr. Patrick Swier, ordered testing and later diagnosed McCleod with lower extremity nerve compression.

Dr. Swier recommended surgery to avoid permanent nerve damage. Dr. Swier performed nine separate nerve procedures on McLeod’s left leg.

After the surgeries, McLeod developed complex regional pain syndrome, which resulted in constant and severe pain. She is no longer able to work as a school teacher; she was earning $60,000 annually.

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