On November 17, 2011, 66 year old Patient X was admitted as a patient to a South Carolina hospital for a routine surgical procedure. A retired speech therapist, Patient X’s prior medical history was significant for hypertension, which was well managed through medication. Surgery was uneventful and by November 19, 2011, Patient X was recovering well on a step down unit in the hospital.
However, in the early morning hours of November 20, 2011, Patient X’s blood pressure began to elevate, eventually reaching a systolic reading of 203 and a diastolic reading of 93. This highly elevated blood pressure required timely and effective management to prevent a certain and foreseeable stroke secondary to her unregulated blood pressure. Rather than initiate medicinal protocols to lower the blood pressure, Patient X’s surgeon (who later admitted having little experience managing hypertensive patients) directed the hospital’s on duty nurse to page the hospitalist who was covering the hospital that day to provide management of Patient X. about her elevated blood pressure. According to the Electronic Medical Record for the hospitalist referral, the surgeon made the request for consult on a “routine” basis, as opposed to issuing a “STAT” order. In accordance with hospital policy, a “routine” page could be answered at any time within the eight (8) hour shift. Without immediate intervention, Patient X’s blood pressure waxed and waned over the following 7 hours before peaking at 229 over 111. Further compounding the problem, the surgeon did not follow up to determine whether Patient X’s elevated blood pressure had been properly addressed and that she was stabilized. Ultimately, no care for the management of Patient X’s dangerously high blood pressure was provided from 8:23 a.m. until approximately 4:00 p.m., at which time Patient X experienced severe nausea and a marked change in cognition.
Following the event, the hospitalist was located in the hospital and was hurried to Patient X’s bedside, but it was too late. Patient X suffered an ischemic stroke with devastating permanent and debilitating injuries. Patient X now requires ongoing personal and health care. She is unable to do for herself even the most basic day to day activities. Her speech, memory, motor skills and other essential life functions have been forever altered . Patient X was an artist who won awards for her watercolor paintings. She can no longer paint. Patient X’s husband (an occupational therapist himself) has been involuntarily drafted into the role of a full time care provider for his beloved wife for the rest of her life. Plaintiffs alleged that the stroke and all associated damages would have been avoided had Patient X been given timely care and medicine to lower her blood pressure during the morning and early afternoon of November 20, 2011.
The Quick Facts:
Total Settlement Amount: $3,000,000.00 plus
Date: October 2014
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Ronald L. Richter, Jr and Eric S. Bland of Bland Richter, LLP Columbia and Charleston, SC
Plaintiff’s expert witnesses: Kevin Sheth, M.D. (Board certified Neurologist and Chief of Neurocritical Care and Emergency Medicine at Yale University Hospital);
Economist: Charles Alford, PHD;
Life Care Planner: Karen Lustig of Lustig Consulting
Nursing: Lorin Stein