Woman Sues Hospital/Docs for infection contracted while waiting for fetus to be removed


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A Texas woman says that she contracted a potentially deadly blood infection while waiting overnight at a hospital for doctors to remove a fetus that had died.

Because of what she calls negligent care, Mashell Darden says she receives dialysis three days a week, has had two strokes, brain surgery, blood clots, liver damage, a partial hysterectomy and heart surgery, The Dallas Morning News reported.

The mother of four is on a waiting list for a kidney transplant.

Nearly three years after that emergency, Darden is in the midst of a lawsuit against Lake Pointe Medical Center in Rowlett, Texas, and several members of its medical staff. The complaint, filed in Dallas County civil court, states that in the 16 hours Darden was at the hospital, doctors failed to properly examine her until she had contracted a blood infection called sepsis and it had progressed into septic shock, which is often fatal.

Less than two hours after Darden arrived at the hospital's emergency room with a high fever, a sonogram revealed that she was unknowingly 17 weeks pregnant but that the baby had died. After the fetus was removed the next morning, 16 hours after she arrived at the hospital, doctors told her husband she might not survive.

Darden, 42, and her attorney said doctors should have removed the fetus immediately, instead of waiting.

The Joint Commission, an independent agency that certifies more than 18,000 health care organizations nationally, is investigating the case. It also is evaluating a case The Dallas Morning News wrote about in April in which an obstetrician left Lake Pointe for several hours while her patient with a history of medical problems was in labor. The patient's baby died.

If the commission finds that the hospital didn't meet safety or quality standards in either case, it can be stripped of accreditation, which could jeopardize its federal funding.

The Dallas Morning News gave this account, based on court records and interviews:
Darden's ordeal began Sept. 10, 2008, when she said she began feeling feverish while doing medical coding at a dialysis center where she worked. She called her husband, Anthony, and said she felt dizzy and unable to drive. She wrapped her shivering body in three layers of clothing and waited for her husband to arrive, the paper reported.

When they got to her physician's clinic, Darden complained of neck and low back pain, and her temperature was 104.8 degrees, according to the complaint. Her doctor called 911 and sent her to Lake Pointe Medical Center, the nearest hospital.

At 5:45 p.m., an hour and a half after paramedics took her to the hospital, health care workers discovered the dead fetus through a sonogram. The couple was surprised to find out she had gotten pregnant, because Darden had undergone a tubal ligation two years earlier, after the birth of her fourth child.

Doctors ordered that a procedure called "dilation and evacuation" be performed the next morning to remove the fetus. Darden's fever had subsided, and she was talking with doctors about the procedure. They did not examine her.

"I remember them telling me we can go home the next evening," she said.

It was one of the last things she remembered. When Darden woke up from a coma about three months later, she said she was in another hospital and barely alive.

One of the first things her husband told her was, "We almost lost you."

t 10 p.m., nurses at Lake Pointe took Darden to a private room where she and her husband stayed until the procedure the next morning. But as the minutes ticked by, her condition worsened.

In addition to bleeding, Darden was vomiting and in intense pain. Nurses came to the room nearly every hour and ordered blood transfusions and changed the sheets, but no doctor ever arrived, said Anthony Darden, 39.

"To me, they were waiting to see if my wife passes," he said. "My thought was everything was OK. That's the way they were presenting it. But in the back of my mind everything was not OK."

About 8 a.m., Darden was transferred to surgery and the fetus was removed. Afterward, several specialists surrounded his wife, Anthony Darden said.

There was a neurologist, an infectious-disease doctor, a kidney doctor and a cardiologist, he said. They explained that his wife had sepsis, an infection that can cause blood clotting, multiple organ failure and death.

"If she makes it through the night, she may have a chance," he recalled one of the doctors telling him.
Anthony Darden said he was incredulous, at one point telling them: "I don't understand. We drove in, she talked to you, and now she's at death's door."

After the procedure, Anthony Darden told doctors he wanted his wife moved to another hospital. After doctors stabilized her, she was transferred to Medical City Dallas Hospital.

Since Mashell Darden underwent heart surgery in January and began receiving dialysis treatments three days a week, the medical bills have topped $3 million, the paper reported.

The couple has gone from two incomes to subsisting on Anthony's pay as a service consultant at a car dealership.

The trial is set for November.

Attorneys of Ross Feller Casey, LLP have built a remarkable record of victories in Birth Injury related cases, amassing a long list of seven- and eight-figure verdicts and settlements. They include:

$22 million verdict in a birth injury case involving blood arriving late for a transfusion
$12 million recovery in a birth injury case
$8 million settlement for a child who suffered a brain injury due to a delay in delivery
$7 million recovery for a child left with cerebral palsy as a result of obstetrical negligence
$7 million settlement for a woman who died just after delivering a baby
$6 million settlement for an infant who suffered brain damage because a nurse midwife and nurses failed to manage fetal distress during labor
$5.5 million recovery for a child who was brain injured at birth because an obstetrician failed to recognize signs of placental abruption
$5.5 million settlement for the family of a 23-year-old woman who died after giving birth to her daughter

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.