Our client, a 52-year-old executive secretary had an extensive hospital stay in a local Nassau County hospital. She was discharged and thereafter had persistent nausea and vomiting for a two-week period. She was seen in the office by her primary care physician and by a gastroenterologist, but no diagnosis was made. After consulting with her doctor, she was admitted to the hospital for IV fluids and diagnostic testing. Over the next two weeks our client continued to have nausea and vomiting while admitted in the hospital and was unable to take in nutrition by mouth. She became weak due to a lack of nutrition and was prescribed saline with potassium, with no vitamin supplementation or nutritional support.
After approximately 11 days of admission to the hospital, our client began displaying signs of confusion, difficulty seeing (nystagmus) and difficulty ambulating (ataxia). Despite the fact that these three symptoms were signs of a condition called Wernicke’s Encephalopathy, a specific type of brain damage that occurs as a result of a lack of B1 vitamin (Thiamine), the hospital and doctors failed to recognize these symptoms and provide the nutritional support required to prevent brain damage. With no answers from the doctors as to the cause of our client’s symptoms, and no plan of treatment to correct the decline in her mental status, her husband insisted that she be transferred to another hospital.
Upon transfer to the new hospital she was confused, was not opening her eyes, and was barely arousable. She was immediately diagnosed with dehydration and malnutrition. An MRI of her brain showed irreversible damage consistent with Wernicke’s Encephalopathy. Vitamin B1 was administered via IV, and our client began her long road to recovery.
Wernicke’s Encephalopathy is caused by a lack of vitamin B1 as a result of malnutrition. If timely diagnosed, Vitamin B1 is administered and the effects of the malnutrition are reversible. If left untreated for a prolonged period of time, as was the case with this patient, Wernicke’s Encephalopathy causes irreversible brain damage that results in a condition called Korsakoff Syndrome. This syndrome is marked by short term loss of memory, visual disturbance and dizziness (nystagmus), and difficulty walking (ataxia).
As a result of the medical malpractice of the doctors and hospital in allowing our client to develop malnutrition while admitted to the hospital and then failing to timely diagnose and treat the B1 vitamin deficiency, our client suffers from permanent memory loss, is incontinent and has difficulty walking.
The defense argued that our client’s cognitive and neurological injuries were as a result of her prior medical history and hospitalizations that were unrelated to the care and treatment that she received at the defendant hospital.
To confront this defense, a team of top experts was amassed by our firm in preparation for trial. As part of the team, our firm retained a Yale trained gastroenterologist; a Harvard trained Neurologist; a Board-Certified radiologist; a life care planner; a neuropsychologist; a vocational expert; and a forensic economist.
Our firm pressed forward to trial, and the defense, concerned about our readiness and courtroom skill, agreed to mediation. After a full day of mediation, and just prior to trial, the case settled for $9.2 million providing lifelong financial security for our client.