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Brain Injury Trial Following Improper Post-Surgery Monitoring

Other than car accidents and “slip and fall” accidents, medical malpractice is perhaps the most common situation where a brain injury results in a civil lawsuit. The Chicago brain injury attorneys at our firm work with many residents who have themselves suffered one of these injuries because of medical negligence or have a family members who fell victim. Each case is tragic, and they are all reminders of the importance of improving patient safety efforts.

End of Brain Injury Lawsuit
For example, Penn Live reported this week on the end of a medical malpractice trial involving a young child who suffered a brain injury following surgery. The plaintiff in the case was only eleven months old when he was tested for a sleep condition known as sleep apnea The condition is somewhat common, affecting individuals of all ages. Sleep apnea essentially involves stoppages in breathing while one is asleep. The boy in this case, for example, was tested and apparently had 50 “episodes” in a single night where his blood oxygen level dropped.

To correct the problem the boy’s otolaryngologist recommend that he have surgery. Removal of his tonsils, adenoids, and insert ear tubes, he suggested, would help correct the problem. The surgery was scheduled and performed.

Unfortunately, the child’s recovery did not go smoothly. For one thing he required five hours of recovery as a result of low oxygen levels in his blood. Later, while in a regular hospital room he was found unresponsive, not breathing, and without a pulse by a nurse. Fortunately, the medical team was able to revive him, but damage had already been done. An MRI revealed that the child suffered a brain injury.

The full extent of the injury is unknown. Right now the child appears about a year and a half behind others in his peer group. It is unclear how the injury will affect the child’s development in the years ahead. However, it is likely that he will require significant special care as he ages.

Lawsuit
Following the incident the family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital. The case eventually went to trial. During the trial expert witnesses testified regarding steps that a reasonable doctor would have taken in the same situation to prevent the injury from occurring. For example, the family argued that a reasonable doctor would have recognized the risk of surgical complications faced by the hild. in addition, following the surgery the child should have been placed in an intensive care unit for recovery, instead of a regular hospital room. On top of that, the boy’s surgeon did not recommend that the boy’s blood oxygen levels be monitored closely. As a result the levels dropped and nurses did not identify the situation until he was already unresponsive.

The jury in the case eventually reached a verdict in the family’s favor. They found the doctor negligent and awarded the family $1.1 million. The funds will be placed in trust to provide for the child’s care as he ages.

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