A 53-year old male with a history of sciatica goes to a Bronx, New York emergency room complaining of back pain and exhibiting flu-like symptoms, including a low grade fever and elevated pulse rate. He is admitted to the hospital and when he demonstrates weakness in this arms and legs, the doctors determine that he has a Staph infection and attribute the weakness and pain to his sciatica. His problems continue to worsen to the point that he was not able to move his arms and legs. The doctors order CT scans of his lumbar, or lower, spine but no one orders an MRI or CT scan of his cervical spine, the neck, until two weeks later, despite his inability to move his upper or lower extremities and despite the finding of Staph A infection ( a bacteria commonly found in a spinal abscess).
When the CT of the cervical spine is conducted, it is found that this gentleman had a spinal abscess – an infection inside the spinal cord – causing his problems. He underwent surgery and rehabilitation, through which he regained the use of his arms, but his problems, and the doctors’ negligence, have rendered him a paraplegic.
The delay in diagnosis and treatment left this father of three paralyzed from the chest down. For the past five years , he has been unable to live in the family home because the house was not wheelchair accessible. This summer, a jury awarded him a little more than $19 million, finding the hospital negligent for the doctors’ failure to timely diagnose and treat his spinal abscess.