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Failure To Respond To A Patient’s Post-Operative Complaints Can Result In Tragedy

January 2, 2018 in

Doctors and nurses have a duty to provide a hospitalized patient with thorough and appropriate care, and take all complaints seriously. Failure to do so can be extremely harmful. Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C. (SPBMC) represented a woman whose treatable post-operative symptoms went unnoticed and she suffered life-threatening consequences as a result.

Helen was a 50-year-old accountant who was hospitalized to remove her enlarged thyroid. Following the procedure, her blood calcium level dropped from her normal range and she was diagnosed with calcium deficiency. Even though calcium was ordered and placed by her bed, it was inexplicably never administered by the staff.

As the evening progressed, Helen’s difficulty swallowing made her increasingly nervous and agitated. She was seen by an attending hospital doctor who incorrectly determined that Helen was fine. The following morning, Helen complained of shortness of breath and increased swelling of the operative site on her neck. Shortly after, the nurses noticed that Helen was indeed struggling for breath and experiencing respiratory failure. Though hospital staff restored Helen’s breathing, she lacked oxygen for too long and suffered brain damage. Tragically, this caused her to slip into a permanent coma.

Helen’s guardian came to us for justice. We claimed that the hospital staff failed to properly and timely treat Helen and that their failures constituted medical malpractice. During the trial we showed a jury that Helen’s respiratory failure was preventable. Helen’s mother testified that she had been at her daughter’s bedside throughout the hour that preceded the fateful incident. Her mother maintained that Helen repeatedly told her nurse of her breathing troubles, only to be dismissed as a normal post-operative occurrence. Our expert testified that Helen’s breathing distress and failure were caused by hypocalcemia (too little calcium in the body). The expert explained that when blood calcium levels are too low it can cause a substantial reduction in a patient’s ability to breathe and Helen’s symptoms were a textbook case of hypocalcemia. The expert testified that Helen’s condition could have been rectified by immediate dosages of calcium.

Although the hospital doctor was nearby and had been informed that Helen was struggling for breath, he inexcusably did not rush to her bedside. Had the doctor acted with the urgency Helen deserved, he could have given her the lifesaving calcium — which was in her room — that would have prevented brain damage.

Helen has unfortunately been in a vegetative state since the hospital stay and requires around-the-clock nursing care. We secured a multimillion-dollar settlement that will provide the necessary, full-time aid she needs.

For many patients, the correct post-surgical inspection and treatment can mean the difference between life and death. If you think a medical procedure caused or intensified your illness or injury, contact our personal injury attorneys immediately.

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