JON S STORY. A real case demonstrating the unfairness of damage caps.

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1 JON S STORY A real case demonstrating the unfairness of damage caps.

2 Jon s Story Jon was a hard-working, active man who enojoyed his work. Jon now lives in constant pain due to a doctor s blatant disregard for hospital policy. Jon was 38 years old and a heavy machinist by trade, a physically demanding job that required heavy lifting, as well as lots of standing, walking and carrying. Despite the fact that lay-offs are common in this trade, Jon managed to stay continuously employed in the field. He was diligent in ensuring that he always had another job to go to when the one on which he was working was ready to end. Jon didn t like to be idle. Down-time was not relaxing to him it drove him crazy. Jon was happiest when working or when spending time with his wife, Denise. Jon had found happiness in his second marriage. He and Denise had much in common. They liked the same things, shared a similar sense of humor, and both understood how to avoid some of the pitfalls that can make a marriage unhappy. At 38, Jon had found the formula for a rewarding and fulfilling life. In September, Jon injured his left hand while working. The injury at first did not seem serious, but Jon continued to be bothered by numbness and tingling in his hand. His doctor suggested that a test be performed to determine if he was suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Jon was sent to a local hospital for the performance of the test, known as an EMG or electromyogram. During the nerve conduction portion of this test, small shocks are delivered to a body part to determine how fast or slow nerve impulses travel throughout the affected area. The second part of the test involves inserting needles into specific muscles to record muscle activity. In order to conduct the test, Jon was asked to lie on an examination table that was higher than a normal bed. The physician conducting the test then wheeled a large cart over to the bed, placing it by Jon s legs and feet. The cart contained the EMG machine, which looks like a large desktop computer. An amplifier arm, which was connected by cables to the main unit, was extended across Jon s torso to extend the reach of the machine to his left arm. The test was then conducted, with nerve conduction velocity tests occurring first and then the needle examination. When the test was completed, the physician turned to leave the room, telling Jon to get up and that he could leave. As Jon moved to get off of the stretcher, his foot became entangled in the wires running between the amplifier arm and the main EMG machine. Although he tried to keep himself from falling by reaching out for support and twisting, Jon tumbled to the floor, striking the floor hard, head first. All hospitals have requirements that medical equipment be moved from a patient s path of travel, especially when the patient is required to climb down from a bed or examination table. All hospitals also require that a patient be given appropriate assistance to move from an examination table to the floor. The EMG physician failed to comply with both hospital requirements. He left the EMG machine near Jon s legs, and he failed to push the amplifier arm out of Jon s path of travel. He also failed to assist Jon in sitting on the examining table or in standing and climbing down from the table. Jon s leg was cut by the amplifier arm, and the hard fall to the floor onto his head caused him to experience immediate headaches, accompanied by nausea and vomiting, and burning neck pain. The twisting and reaching as he fell also caused him lower back pain, and he noticed a pain in his right leg that he had never had before. As the pain worsened in the weeks that followed this incident, Jon sought medical care. He was concerned that the head, neck, back and leg pain that he had from the fall was not improving. His doctors ordered x-rays, CT Scans and MRIs. The tests showed that the fall from the examining table had caused a herniated disk in his lower neck and another herniated disk in his lower back. The herniated disk in his neck also caused damage to one of Jon s cranial nerves, which was discovered to be the cause of his headaches. Page 2 of 5

3 As a result of these totally preventable injuries, Jon s life has changed drastically. He was forced to have surgery on his lower back to remove the herniation there. Nerve damage from the herniation caused him to suffer foot drop that cannot be corrected. A year later, Jon underwent surgery on his neck to remove the herniated disk there and to fuse several levels of vertebrae together in an effort to provide more stability to his neck. Unfortunately, neither of these surgical treatments stopped Jon s pain. His headaches seemed to worsen, and no medication appeared to be able to lessen his intractable head pain. Jon s doctors recommended another surgery. During that operation, electrodes were implanted in his neck and up into the back of his head. These electrodes were connected to a nerve stimulator placed in his chest. The hope was that the nerve stimulator could prevent the damaged cranial nerve from causing such excruciating and unrelenting pain. Things only got worse for Jon after the insertion of the electrodes and nerve stimulator. He developed a very serious staph infection during the implantation procedures. After weeks on IV antibiotics, his doctors had no choice but to remove the stimulator, which was now infected. Months of antibiotic treatment followed, and Jon had to wait over seven months before the infection was totally gone and it was safe for his doctors to attempt another implantation of the stimulator. In addition to being in pain again during that time, Jon also had to deal with pus-filled sores, inflamed skin and necrotic incision sites. Even after the nerve stimulator was re-implanted, Jon has not experienced total relief of his headaches. He takes morphine daily for pain control, and he is now forced to take methadone for break-through pain. The morphine makes it hard for him to stay alert during the day, and much of his time is spent in a drug-induced, zombielike haze. Attempts at activity or any form of exertion trigger the debilitating headaches that wreck his life. Even simple things like bending over to tie a shoe or taking a shower will cause the headaches to explode. Once one of his headaches is in full-swing, Jon tries to lay as still as possible, although the vomiting that accompanies the pain makes that impossible. While his lower back pain was lessened by the surgery, his permanent foot drop prevents him from walking with a normal gait. His difficulty walking is compounded by a lack of sensation in his right leg. He hangs onto furniture as he attempts to move around the house. Jon, for whom steady work and keeping busy were so important, can no longer work. He has become depressed and withdrawn. He sits at home every day, unable to perform chores around the house and unable to earn a living. In an effort to fill his time, Jon has attempted to perform community service. He volunteers as a counselor to mental health patients. His role is to just sit and talk with the patients so that they can feel that someone cares about them. Jon loves being useful again, but is frustrated that his ability to be of service is so limited by his pain. He would prefer to be able to give more than just a few hours a week. The carelessness of one physician has changed Jon s life. He lives in constant pain with the knowledge that he will never get any better. Why should his constitutional right to a full and fair recovery for his physical pain, mental suffering, embarrassment and humiliation be denied to him? Should Jon lose his rights to solve a crisis of access to physicians that never really existed? Before Jon has to give up his rights, shouldn t there be some real proof that the sacrifice of his rights will make a difference in the cost of medical malpractice premiums or the number of physicians in the state? Page 3 of 5

4 When numerous surgeries did not ease Jon s pain, his physician s implanted devices to help relieve his anguish. Even with these devices, Jon still suffers daily. Page 4 of 5

5 Page 5 of 5

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