Sommers Schwartz attorneys Richard Groffsky and Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller secured a confidential $1.5 million hospital malpractice settlement on behalf of a 52-year-old man who suffered an acute ischemic stroke while being observed in the stroke unit of the defendant hospital.
The plaintiff’s wife transported him to the hospital’s emergency room after he displayed stroke symptoms at home. Although the plaintiff’s neurological deficits had resolved by the time he arrived at the ER, the medical staff diagnosed him as suffering a transient ischemic attack. The plaintiff was advised he could return home, but at the insistence of the plaintiff’s wife, he remained in the hospital’s stroke unit for 24-hour observation.
Nursing notes throughout that day documented drooping of the plaintiff’s mouth on the left side, believed to be triggered by a spike in his blood sugars, rather than a sign of acute stroke. The plaintiff is an insulin dependent diabetic, and upon admission to the stroke unit, his insulin pump was taken away.
During the night, the plaintiff attempted to use the bathroom, but when he tried to get out of bed on his own, he could not lift himself due to marked weakness in his left side. He testified that he called for help, but no one responded. There is no note in the medical record of the change in his neurologic condition.
A follow-up neurological check at 8:43 am revealed an acute change and noted drooping of the left side of his mouth, slightly limited mobility, unsteady/weak gait, slurred speech, and decreased range of motion in the left arm. Despite a previous order to notify a physician for any decline in neurological status or worsening stroke signs, the LPN who performed the check chose not to notify a doctor or call a code stroke. The LPN performed a subsequent check at 10:00 am with the same findings, but again failed to notify a physician or call a code. Despite a note by another nurse at 11:50 am that documented further neurological deterioration, and another neurological check at 2:00 pm, no physician was notified, nor was a code called.
Finally, at 3:29 pm, a neurologist responding to the routine consult request made the day before examined the plaintiff. His impression was “right hemisphere cerebral infarct, likely basal ganglia location.” By this time, however, the plaintiff was outside the therapeutic window for administration of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), an anticoagulant used to treat blood clots. All that could be done was to proceed with physical, occupational, and speech therapy to help him manage his deficits.
An MRI of the brain was done later that day and confirmed a right ischemic cerebrovascular accident.
Prior to the stroke, the plaintiff had worked for 22 years in a physically active job. As a result of the stroke, the plaintiff is now wheelchair bound, unable to work and provide for his family.