dsc_5632-e1376685182828-150x150Koni Johnson filed suit against two emergency physicians and their employer, Cook County, alleging the doctors were negligent in their treatment of her spinal cord injury. She had gone to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, a/k/a Cook County Hospital a day after she slipped and fell injuring her back.

Johnson alleged that the county violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (42 U.S.C. Section 1395dd) by choosing not to provide appropriate screening and to stabilize her medical condition before discharging her.

Cook County, which owns and operates Stroger Hospital, requested summary judgment based on Sections 6-105 and 6-106 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act. The defendants argued they had provided appropriate treatment for the condition the emergency room doctors diagnosed, which was muscle spasm and back and buttocks bruises.

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images-2On April 29, 2004, 36-year-old Tamara Greico sprained her ankle during a bowling match. She was diagnosed in the emergency room of a hospital with a severe ankle sprain. She had wrapped it and was given crutches and told to keep her ankle elevated before being referred to an Alton, Ill., clinic.

The physician’s assistant and medical assistant at the clinic testified at the jury trial that they saw Tamara the next day and made a similar diagnosis while also giving her a walking boot, medication and instruction for exercising the ankle. Tamara returned to the clinic on May 5, 2004 complaining of more pain and numbness in her toes. A physician and one of the defendants, Dr. Bruce Vest, testified that he examined her and considered the possibility that she had a deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot, but ruled it out and did not order anticoagulant therapy.

Two days later, Tamara’s employer found her lying on the ground near her car in the office parking lot, lapsing in and out of consciousness. She was taken to the hospital where she complained of breathing problems before going into cardiac arrest.

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images-1Brett L., 12, underwent a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy at a children’s’ hospital. After the procedure, Brett was extubated and transferred to the hospital’s post-anesthesia care unit (PACU).

Over the next 90 minutes, Brett‘s parents noticed that he was snoring. A nurse refused the parents’ request that Brett be repositioned. The parents then sought other help and found a nurse’s aide who turned Brett over to find that he was not breathing at all.

Despite resuscitation efforts, Brett died. He was survived by his parents and two siblings.

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imagesThis case was resolved in a confidential settlement. It dealt with an injury to a 50-year-old woman who underwent a hysterectomy performed by an obstetrician. During the surgery, it was revealed that a surgical sponge was missing. The doctor then performed a cystoscopy to examine the woman’s bladder and also repaired the bladder, which had been torn during the hysterectomy.

The obstetrician failed to notice that the woman’s ureters had been sutured closed during the bladder repair. The ureter is the tube that takes urine from the kidneys to the urinary bladder. There are two ureters. Each of the two ureters is attached to a kidney.

The woman suffered damage to both kidneys because of the sutured closed ureters and now suffers from frequent urinary tract infections and urinary stress incontinence.

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images-2Gwendolyn Brown was a 50-year-old woman who had been suffering from back pain. She underwent three epidural steroid injections that were given by a pain specialist, Dr. Dennis Doherty, at the Southeastern Pain Ambulatory Surgery Center. During the third epidural procedure, which was done under conscious sedation, it became difficult for the doctor and assistants to maintain Brown’s airway, and she stopped breathing for periods of times. Dr. Doherty and his nursing assistant continued with the procedure, even though his patient was not breathing from time to time.

Brown was later transferred to a hospital where she was diagnosed as having severe anoxic brain damage, which is the condition that follows a period of time when the brain is not fully or sufficiently oxygenated. Most severely brain damaged patients lose many cognitive and motor functions that include speech, sight, walking and other extremely debilitating deficits. Unfortunately, Brown died six years later. She was survived by her husband and three adult children.

Brown’s husband on behalf of her estate and family sued the surgery center, Dr. Doherty and his employer for medical negligence alleging failure to timely respond to an emergency situation during the epidural procedure — that period of time when Brown was unable to breath. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants should have turned Brown over from the prone position, provided a bag mask and started CPR in light of her critical oxygen status.

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imagesVitalina Martinez was a long-term patient of the defendant internal medicine physician Eladio Vargas, MD. Martinez was Dr. Vargas’s patient for over 17 years. During this time, Dr. Vargas prescribed various narcotics, Benzodiazepines and barbiturates. Martinez became addicted to these medicines.

She was 52 years old when she fell at home on Oct. 24, 2007. She alleged that the fall was caused by an overdose of the medications prescribed by Dr. Vargas. She was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital where she was admitted for 3 weeks. During this 3-week hospitalization, she went through a detoxification protocol to ease her dependence on the multiple prescription medicines prescribed by Dr. Vargas.

Three weeks after her discharge from Lutheran General, she went to Dr. Vargas’s office on Dec. 4, 2007. At this visit, Dr. Vargas prescribed Xanax and 200 mg of MS Contin for daily use.

 

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imagesOn March 21, 2007, Daniel Gapinski underwent neurosurgery at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Ill. The surgery was for resection of the brain mass in the pituitary area. The defendant, Dr. Neena Gujrati, was the pathologist who interpreted the tissue specimens. Dr. Gujrati concluded that the tissue specimen were benign meningioma, a tumor usually found in the membrane lining of the brain just inside of the skull or on the spinal cord. These tumors are usually slow growing and are 90% of the time found to be benign.

Gapinski, who was then age 42, received small doses of radiation in an attempt to debulk the benign tumor. He was able to return to work as a heavy equipment operator for 2 years working up to 14 hours per day. However, in late 2008, Gapinski began experiencing symptoms similar to those he experienced in 2007 before his surgery. Gapinski returned to St. Francis Medical Center and also went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for a second opinion. He eventually underwent a two-phase neurosurgery procedure in 2009 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The pathology from that surgery was read as renal cell carcinoma, indicating the presence of a kidney cancer that had metastasized to the brain.

Gapinski and his wife decided to return to Illinois for treatment at the University of Chicago Hospital. At the time of the transfer of his care to the University of Chicago, all of his medical records, including the original 2007 pathology slides prepared by Dr. Gujrati were evaluated. A pathologist at the University of Chicago diagnosed the tissues from 2007 as being consistent with renal cell carcinoma. Continue reading →

imagesIn a strange but interesting medical malpractice case, the jury entered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff without awarding a single dollar for plaintiff’s noneconomic damages. In April 2013, after a three-day jury trial, the jury found in this medical negligence lawsuit that the defendant physician Dr. Sublette was negligent in the cause of the death of his patient, Concetta Cimino, but concluded that there could be no awarded damages. This wrongful death, medical malpractice case was brought by the family of Cimino.

She was 83 years old in January 2009 and, according to testimony from her family, was in “pretty good health” when she phoned her daughter and told her she had been vomiting regularly.

Cimino’s daughter then drove her to Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, Ill., the following day.

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imagesHW was 44 years old and had a history of heroin abuse. He developed severe back pain and then went to a local hospital’s emergency room telling the nursing staff that he was also suffering from heroin addiction and that he had experienced fever and nausea.

HW underwent testing, including an EKG, x-rays and blood work and was discharged from the hospital with a diagnosis of exacerbated back pain and narcotic withdrawal.

When the final results of HW’s blood culture were finalized it showed that he was suffering from a systemic blood infection. However, the hospital claimed that it was not able to reach HW by phone to advise him of these very dangerous results. Instead, the hospital sent a certified letter to the address that HW had given at the time of his admission. A copy of that letter was found in his medical records file. Predictably, before HW received the letter, he suffered paralysis from his chest down because of the systemic blood infection.

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images-3Patricia 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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