Million dollar recovery for an unmarried, 57-year-old Bedford County truck driver against a hospital Emergency Room physician who failed to detect that he was having a heart attack. The heart problem was eventually detected several hours later by another doctor but by that time the patient had suffered more extensive damage to his heart muscle and, as a result, he was left with permanent cardiac problems.
This man came into the Emergency Room with complaints of sudden onset of chest pain and other symptoms. An EKG was done which suggested that he may be having a heart attack, but the ER physician apparently did not see that test result or interpret it correctly. When a second doctor detected the heart attack, the patient was sent for an emergency catheterization and stent to open up a blocked cardiac blood vessel. If the heart attack had been discovered sooner and the stent done much earlier, he would not have suffered as much heart muscle damage. This man also was at risk for sudden cardiac death in the future and, therefore, he had to undergo surgery for the placement of an internal cardiac defibrillator.
When a patient is having a heart attack, it is important that the diagnosis be made as soon as possible. Most heart attacks are caused by a blockage in one of the cardiac blood vessels, and one of the main ways to treat that problem is to immediately perform a cardiac catheterization so that the blocked artery can be opened either with an inflatable balloon or a small stent in order to re-establish blood flow. When blood flow is blocked, the heart muscle located "down stream" from the blockage can suffer permanent damage.
As a result of his heart condition, our client was unable to return to his regular work as a truck driver. He was also suffering from chronic fatigue and shortness of breath which caused him problems in going about his daily activities at home. Therefore, the claim for damages included not only the loss of wages due to his not being able to return to work but also for the change in his lifestyle because of his chronic fatigue.
This was a classic Emergency Room medical malpractice case. While some medical malpractice cases involve a doctor who fails to order the right test, in this situation, the right test was ordered (an EKG), but the doctor did not pay attention to the test results.