Cook County Jury Finds for Physician in Claim of Failure to Treat Bacterial Meningitis

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.

An initial white blood cell count was within the normal range and blood cultures were normal for bacterial growth. A lumbar puncture was done the next day, which revealed milky spinal fluid, elevated protein, decreased glucose, extremely elevated cell counts and a white blood cell count left shift, but no bacterial growth upon culturing.

Her white blood count spiked to 27,000 the following day with a fever of 103.1 degrees Fahrenheit, but gradually her temperature returned to normal.

After one week of hospitalization, the infectious disease specialist wanted to discontinue the antibiotics but agreed to continue them at her request. Reardon was discharged from the hospital on Dec. 19, 2005.

Reardon contended in her lawsuit for injuries she suffered that the gel-foam packing served as a nucleus for infection. She also maintained that Dr. Gavron deviated from the standard of care by choosing not to order postop broad spectrum oral antibiotics and this negligence led to bacterial meningitis with resulting brain injury, short-term and long-term memory deficits, concentration difficulties, dizziness, balance issues and an executive function disorder, rendering her unable to continue working in her job as a field engineer for Medtronics Corp.

At the time of the nasal surgery, Reardon was on maternity leave after having a baby two weeks earlier. Following her hospitalization for the infection, she extended her maternity leave by a few weeks, returned to work in March 2006 and then went on disability in October 2008.

The defendants argued that the standard of care did not require post-op antibiotics, Reardon’s presentation and clinical course at Christ Hospital were not consistent with bacterial meningitis, the diagnosis of bacterial meningitis was never confirmed before she was discharged, she never became comatose or suffered any radiographically identifiable brain injury, she either suffered from viral meningitis or a drug-induced injury from the administration of Unasyn.Lastly the defendants maintained that her presentation at the hospital could be attributed to her later diagnosed condition of hormonal-triggered complex migraine syndrome.

The defendants further argued persuasively that Reardon was able to continue working for more than 2½ years and in fact she received annual raises and bonuses during that time. She also competed in a triathlon in 2007 and she subsequently gave birth to five more children. Any issue she currently experiences is due to a complex migraine syndrome and not to any neglect on the part of the defendant physician and his practice.

Before trial there was a demand to settle the case for $1 million, but it was withdrawn. The jury was asked to return a verdict of $8,674,385. The defendants made no offer to settle this case.

At trial, the plaintiff’s counsel engaged experts in infectious disease, otolaryngology and economics. The defendants engaged experts in infectious disease, otolaryngology and neurology.

The jury held in favor of both Dr. Gavron and his medical practice.

Danielle Reardon v. Dr. Joseph P. Gavron, Southwest Head & Neck Surgical Associates, S.C., No. 07 L 13664 (Cook County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence lawsuits, birth injury lawsuits, nursing home abuse cases and catastrophic injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding Illinois areas, including Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village, Countryside, South Barrington, Bridgeview, Elmhurst, Rolling Meadows, Chicago (Logan Square, Englewood, North Lawndale, Austin, Hegewisch, East Side, Little Italy, Greek Town), Bolingbrook, Joliet, Elgin, Wheaton, Vernon Hills, Buffalo Grove, Northfield and Glenview, Ill.

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