A tragic incident that started as a heart blockage and myocardial infarction ended with a 50 year old woman's death due to respiratory arrest.
The woman was brought to a hospital as a result of said myocardial infarction. She was intubated and transferred to a Worcester teaching hospital to undergo a cardiovascular catheterization and stenting of her occluded right coronary artery and transferred to the Critical Care Unit. She remained there for 24 days. When the endotracheal tube was removed, they noticed she was in mild distress and had a coarse cough, indicative of an airway obstruction.
Five days later, she experienced respiratory distress and was re-intubated. It was determined that her body type - 5'3" with a short, thick neck - made intubation more difficult than usual. She was eventually given a special tube called the Bivona, which was more flexible and longer than the kind normally used. The Defendant nurse no. 1 admitted to understanding the patient's difficulties in the operating room, although she denied familiarity with the Bivona tube. She also testified at deposition to speaking to a resident about the patient's condition, but not remembering the contents of that conversation. She also identified a second nurse, later added as a Defendant, who aided her in changing the patient's bed linens.
Defendant nurses no. 1 and 2 were in the patient's room to change her linens. They turned her to her side. Nurse no. 1 testified that she detached the ventilator tubing from its support holder, leaving sufficient slack, and placed the tubing across the patient's body. While pushing her on her side, nurse no. 2 held the patient by placing one hand on her shoulder and the other on her hip. No one held the ventilator apparatus to insure that force was not exerted on the tracheostomy tube, which turned into a fatal mistake.
The ventilator alarm sounded, which alerts the nurses that the patient is not receiving adequate oxygen. However, they did not notice that the patient's tracheostomy tube had been dislodged until after the patient had been suctioned. Ultimately, the nurses called a code when they were unsuccessful in providing the patient with oxygen via a hand-held Ambu-bag.
Four attempts were made to re-intubate. The patient experienced about 12 minutes of anoxia during this time. She was eventually extubated but died within the hour.
Suit was filed against the nurses, and experts were obtained who could testify that the patient would otherwise have lived to 70 or older; and that the patient suffered consciously for up to ten minutes after the tracheostomy tube was dislodged. Defendants hired experts to testify that the nurse's met the standard of care and that the patient had an ominous prognosis, as well as an expert to testify that the tracheostomy tube had become misaligned with the end of the tube impacted against the airway, cutting off her oxygen, and that this was not the fault of the nurses.
The case was eventually settled for $500,000.00 without going to trial.
Medical malpractice suits are not easily won. Experts are always required, at a great financial cost to the plaintiff. If you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice, contact our office today for a free consultation.