Few of us visit the hospital even for routine procedures, without some level of anxiety. But in 2009, a woman admitted to Long Island’s Winthrop University Hospital was drawn into a situation beyond anything she could have imagined.
‘It Kept Getting Worse’
It was an ectopic pregnancy that initially sent Stacey Galette to the hospital. The condition is serious — a life-threatening complication of pregnancy in which the embryo begins growing outside the uterus. However, the treatment for this condition is routine. In most cases, ectopic pregnancy necessitates a laparoscopic surgery to essentially remove the fetus from where it shouldn’t be.
But three days after her surgery, Ms. Galette was still enduring sharp, driving pain that radiated from her stomach to her chest.
“It was a sharp, driving pain,” she told the Daily News. “And it kept getting worse.”
Nonetheless, doctors discharged Ms. Galette and sent her home, only to see her return the following day. She was immediately admitted to an emergency surgery.
This happened in the second week of October. The next thing Ms. Galette remembers was waking up in November.
Routine Procedure Gone Wrong
The first thing Ms. Galette felt upon waking was a pain her legs. Assuming it was from compression sleeves, which are typically applied after surgery to encourage blood circulation, she asked her father to take the sleeves off.
It was up to her father to break the news.
Her legs had been amputated.
It was the final stage in a domino-like series of disastrous complications during Ms. Galette’s surgery. During her 73 days in the ICU, she went into cardiac arrest three times and suffered from gangrene and blood poisoning. Along with enduring a colostomy and skin grafts to fight off the septic infection, she was pumped full of antibiotics, which ended up damaging her hearing.
Last December, seated in a wheelchair before the Brooklyn Supreme Court jury, Ms. Galette accused her doctors of negligence for the botched procedure. She claimed that they punctured her colon during the initial operation and failed to acknowledge her complaints of pain, fever and an abnormal heart rate afterward.
What is certain is that a five-millimeter hole in her intestine caused a raging infection that ultimately cost Ms. Galette her hearing, her legs and nearly her life. The medical evidence in the case was so gruesome that Justice Ann Pfau ruled against letting it being seen by the general public.
‘Good and Acceptable’ Medical Practice?
The six doctors denied having punctured Ms. Galette’s colon during the surgery. Their lawyer, Guide Gabriele, argued that it likely occurred after the surgery, “due to an underlying bowel condition.”
He further claimed that even if it did occur during surgery, it was a recognized risk that Ms. Galette would have been advised of prior to undergoing the operation.
Ms. Galette, he said, “was completely and thoroughly advised of the risks and benefits of the procedure.”
He further added that the doctors “had no idea they had done that which is a departure from good and acceptable medical practice.”
‘We Knew Mistakes Had Been Made’
It took the jury three days to reach a verdict. Last January, four years after being released from the hospital as an amputee, Ms. Galette was awarded $62 million.
As the single mother of a 13-year-old daughter and a medical office assistant, Ms. Galette’s life is dramatically affected by the loss of her legs. She uses a wheelchair most of the time, practicing occasionally on prosthetic legs, and battles depression.
Winthrop University Hospital plans to appeal the decision. In fact, when the Daily News ran a story on the trial in 2013, the hospital’s lawyers asked the judge to declare a mistrial, arguing that Ms. Galette should be glad that she made it through the surgery alive.
The judge denied their request.
As one of the jurors told the Daily News: “We knew mistakes had been made.”
Get the Help You Need
Situations like Stacey Galette’s are a tragedy and a triumph all at the same time. At The Oshman Firm, we can’t make up for the devastation wrought by medical malpractice, but we can help victims obtain justice and get the resources they need to recover their lives. Contact us by calling (800) 400-8182 or fill out the form on the right side of this page to discuss your case and learn how we may be able to help you seek justice.
Photo Source: Daily News