Medical Malpractice/Level IV Staph in Hardware After Knee Surgery
After having a motorcycle accident and being sent to the ER, it came to be that I have a broken femur, broken tibia and fibula plateau and torn ligaments. After my first surgery to fix my femur and put my leg in a fixator, they prepped me for the knee surgery that would be in three days. After the surgery they kept me in the hospital for a few more days. For my post op visit with the orthopedic surgeon my had an internal stitch abscess and was put on some antibiotic. My leg began to get worse even after the mild antibiotic. Feeling uneasy I went to the ER to get it evaluated and by this time my leg was opening back up and was clearly obvious there was something wrong. I was told that it was nothing and I shouldn't worry. Two more weeks pass and I am VERY sick. Running a high temperature from 102 - 104 constantly. I re-admitted myself in the ER and they prepped me for emergency surgery that very morning. When I had come out of the surgery the infectious disease doctor told me I had level four staph and would be on 24hr antibiotic through a PICC for the next month and the hardware needs to be taken out. It is now a month after having the PICC taken out and I am only a daily antibiotic and they have not talked to me about taking the hardware out and my lower part of my leg is completely unstable and I have gotten several opinions on the condition and they say that I need ACL reconstruction. They repaired my ACL during the first knee surgery and evidently they did not fix it to standard or the infection had taken its toll on the pin that they used to keep my ACL in place. My main question is, what can I do about the extra hospital bills that could have been avoided and what am I to do about my future knowing my leg has taken even more of a blow than by the wreck alone? I am in the military and need a solid answer to give my leadership or I will be looking at medical discharge, which is something I DO NOT want to happen, and could have been avoided if I had not gotten the staph infection or the poor care. There are several other things that happened at the hospital that was completely ridiculous but will hold that for a later date. Thank you for your time.
Anthony: Wow, this doesn't sound like a good situation. Jumping to your question about what to tell the leadership, obviously only your doctors are qualified to answer that and at this stage, they can probably only guess. As to your question about the extra medical bills, that depends on the type of insurance coverage that you have. Is it private, military, something else? If it is private insurance (Blue Cross, Aetna, etc.) you would have a MAXIMUM OUT OF POCKET per year that would put a cap on your cost. If some other type of insurance, inquire about MAX OUT OF POCKET. But those costs seem to me to be the least of your problems. The big question is, will your leg ever work the same again. I sure hope so but sounds like it will be months at the least until you get there in the best case.
As for malpractice, I can't give you an answer. You have a very complicated case obviously and only an orthopedic surgeon would be qualified to answer whether your doctors handled your case BELOW THE STANDARD OF CARE. The fact that you got the Staph and have had a very stormy outcome thus far doesn't necessarily mean it was because your doctors were legally negligent. Think of it this way: If 10 orthopedic surgeons looked at every detail of your case from start to this point, would at least 7-8 of them say something like this: "What the hell were Anthony's doctors thinking??? They should never have done xyz, or they should have done abc. Those doctors were clearly negligent, they did not handle the case properly (by the book), and if they had done everything by the book the patient would be on the road to full recovery by now. Because of the negligence, Anthony will be having impairment in that leg for a long time or permanently and this should not have occured". That is what it takes to make a viable malpractice case.
The other big legal hurdle is this: Staph (Mersa) infections contracted during surgery or hospitalization are all too common. Theorectically, such infections can be avoided by a super high degree of vigilance and prevention BUT, the STANDARD OF CARE(the level of care required by law) does not require such vigilance by the hospitals or surgeons at least at this point in history. When advanced technology to clean everything in the hospital or Operating Room is to a point where the risk of Staph can truly be eliminated, then the legal standard will require it. As it is, you can't prove whether the infection came from a surgical instrument or which one or somewhere else in the hospital and can't make a case of how the hospital was doing something that the legal standard does require.
Assuming this has all happened recently, you should have plenty of time to think about legal recourse and to determine if there will be any. Check the Statute of Limitations Med Malpractice for the State where this took place. If all within a mililtary jurisdiction and military hospital etc., I can't answer at all. Need a lawyer who works in military setting. So, concentrate on having the follow up surgery you will need, get through that ok, rehab and then see where you are. If you hopefully hopefully make a good recovery and get all function back, forget about malpractice although no harm in disucssing it with qualified lawyer. But the case is so complicated and would be so difficult that unless you were damaged for life,..God forbid, the damages wouldn't be in the millions like they would need to be for a lawyer to take on the case. In any event, you shouldn't take my reply as the last word on the subject. Summary: while mindful of the Statute of Limitations, wait and see what your long term condition will be. If it looks not good, contact the largest medical malpractice lawfirm in the State. It would cost the lawyers 10s of thousands out of their pockets, hiring medical experts etc. to pursue such a case for you. P.S. I presume this was a one vehicle accident. That is, you weren't hit by a car etc. where there is a third party that caused the accident. If there was another person that caused the accident, entirely different situation and you should let me know. I wish you good luck Anthony.