Our client was a 68-year-old woman who lived in Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. She lived independently, owned her home and had a part-time job. She was helping to raise two of her grandchildren. She developed an abdominal hernia that she elected to have surgically repaired. She underwent a routine hernia repair at a Pittsburgh hospital and was discharged home after a few days. Anytime one has abdominal surgery, during the post-operative period, there is a risk that the patient can develop an obstruction of the small bowel or intestine. This complication can often be conservatively treated; however, physicians must be cognizant that the obstruction does not progress to a point where the bowel becomes deprived of oxygen. If this occurs, bowel tissue begins to die, becomes necrotic and perforates.
Unfortunately, our client continued to experience abdominal pain and discomfort. She made several calls to her surgeon and eventually reported to the emergency room of the hospital where her surgery took place. She was admitted to the hospital over a Thanksgiving weekend, but she went several days without seeing the physician who had performed the surgery. During this period, she continued to exhibit signs and symptoms of a worsening bowel obstruction. By the time she was evaluated by her surgeon, the obstruction had progressed to the point that her bowel had become necrotic and perforated. Emergency abdominal surgery was performed, and a large portion of her damaged bowel was removed. Unfortunately, when a person's bowel perforates, fecal matter and waste are released into the person's abdominal cavity. Because of the unnecessary delay in recognizing our client's complication, her perforated bowel led to a massive infection. She became septic, developed multi-organ system failure and remained on life support until she expired a week later.
Our client was survived by her five children. We brought a wrongful death and survival action in Allegheny County to recover damages for the loss of their mother, and for the mother's loss of life and pain and suffering, she endured before death. A settlement was reached with the insurance carrier for the hospital in excess of $250,000.
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