Our client’s husband was no stranger to medical care. At the age of 84, he was a smoker and he lived with type 2 diabetes. Overall, though, his health was stable. Both of his parents had lived into their late 90s and he had hoped to enjoy several more years with his family.

When he began to suffer from intermittent abdominal pain, he saw a gastroenterologist and a general surgeon for help.

The Patient Agreed to Undergo Abdominal Surgery

The doctors identified a mass in the man’s lower intestine and recommended surgery. The man and his family were advised that the surgery was dangerous, but after weighing the known pros and cons of the surgery, he consented to the surgery.

In the immediate post-recovery phase, everything seemed to be going very well. The doctors told the family that they thought they took out the entire mass.

Post-Operative Complications Were Not Handled Properly

With the surgery over, the man and his family looked forward to his recovery. His care was transferred from his surgeon to other physicians who did not know him and were unfamiliar with his case.  From the time of his surgery until the time of death, the following occurred:

  • Day 1: The patient looked good on his first day after surgery, so all of his surgical drains were removed.
  • Day 2: The patient was very sore and reported not feeling well.
  • Day 3: The patient worsened. He was not where the doctors wanted him to be at this point in his recovery.
  • Day 4: The patient continued to get worse. He experienced sharp pains and was weaker than he was two days after his operation.
  • Day 5: The patient continued to get worse.
  • Day 6: The patient had a rigid abdomen that was more distended than it was on the previous days. He had an elevated heart rate and an elevated white blood cell count. At this point, his care was transferred to a new physician. This doctor ordered CT imaging. The test results showed free air and a large amount of fluid in the abdomen. Hospital staff had been unaware of this because the drains had been removed so soon after surgery. The doctor also changed the patient’s pain medication. Hospital staff thought the man was improving because he was reporting less pain. However, he was likely reporting less pain due to the change in medication and not because of an improvement in his condition.
  • Day 8: The hospital repeated the CT imaging. This time the test showed more fluid, an increase in white blood cells, and very high levels of procalcitonin, a substance produced in response to a bacterial infection.
  • Day 9: The patient had emergency surgery. During surgery, it was discovered that his surgical staples had seeped, he had a bowel leak, and he had an infected abscess.

The emergency surgery occurred too late, and he died within 24 hours.

Throughout post-operative care, the doctors missed the symptoms of a potential infection. The hospital’s policy of taking a patient away from the care of the surgeon and moving the patient to the care of a general physician who was not familiar with the case may have allowed the infection to progress. If it had not taken the doctor almost a week to test and another few days to the do the exploratory surgery, the man may have survived.

Gray and White Law Helps Widow Stay in Her Home

We represented this man’s wife after his death. She was 84 years old at the time of her husband’s death, and he had been her primary caretaker. After his death, she was forced to move to a nursing home. However, after Gray and White Law settled her loss-of-consortium case, she was able return to her own home with in-home care.

This woman first sought the help of another Kentucky law firm, but they did not take her case. Many law firms shy away from cases where the person who died was old or where there are several potential defendants, as was the case here. However, our experienced medical malpractice team believes that everyone should be treated with reasonable care and that any medical provider who fails to provide that care should be held accountable.

If you have been hurt or your loved one has died because of medical negligence, we encourage you to contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law

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