He had just gotten off the phone with his sister.
She gave him horrible news.
Something about her health.
He was angry.
Angry with the world.
Angry with himself.
Angry with God.
He was frustrated too.
Frustrated that he couldn't do a damn thing to help her.
He obviously wasn't thinking straight.
He obviously wasn't thinking about the consequences of his actions, otherwise he never would have done that.
He never considered the possiblity of what would happen next from smashing a window with his fist.
Well, you can imagine the sound.
You can imagine the searing pain of broken shattered glass cutting up his hand and arm.
You can imagine the shock on his face when that broken glass cut an artery in his arm sending blood spurting onto the walls and celieing like a garden hose.
The doctors in the emergency room said he had a 'pumper'.
That's a nice way of saying he hit an artery and was now bleeding profusely.
The bleeding had to stop.
If it didn't, he'd bleed to death.
In a matter of minutes.
This was life or death.
The patient clearly needed a blood transfusion.
He lost a lot of blood.
Once the bleeding was under some control, another doctor was called in to stitch the bleeder up.
This hospital staff doctor started stitching.
He couldn't really see exactly where he was putting those stitches.
There was a lot of blood.
Time was of the essence.
There was little time to figure out where these stitches were going.
As long as the bleeding was slowing down, that's all he was concerned with.
A problem that wasn't recognized until weeks later...
When it was already too late.
A tell-tale sign of a problem reared its' head when the patient yelled out that his arm felt like it had been zapped. Like when you hit your funny bone.
The doctor simply said "Don't worry about it, you'll be fine."
He took the doctor's advice.
It was the wrong advice and the patient paid the price for it.
A day or two later, the young man, thinking that it's ok to have unusual sensations in his had following this accident did not think much of the ongoing discomfort he was having in his hand. By day three, he started to think something was really wrong. His fourth and fifth finger were getting numb and were also painful.
The patient returned to the hospital, where it took some coercion to get the clinic residents to evaluate his hand. Despite the patient's complaints, he was sent home and told it was normal to have this pain following such an incident. Two days later, the numbness and inability to move his fourth and fifth fingers brought him back to the hospital clinic. Again, nobody recognized that the young man's ulnar nerve was dying off before their eyes.
Exploratory surgery revealed the patient's worst fears: "A suture used to tie off bleeding vessels had somehow been used instead to tie off your ulnar nerve," was what the hand surgeon advised him. "As a result, your ulnar nerve was deprived of oxygen and blood flow, causing the nerve to die."
He was told he'd need another surgery to try and transplant another nerve from a different part of his body into his arm to see if that would help. He was told that nerves can regenerate, if lucky, at a rate of one inch per month. In other words, a very slow process.
The second surgery went well and he did not need a nerve transplant. Instead, the existing nerve was cleaned up, and stretched as gingerly as possible to get close enough to reattach the two damaged ends of the nerve. Eighteen months later, this patient still had loss of sensation and decreased function in his hand.
Had the emergency room doctor been careful in placing those stitches and had the clinic residents recognized the signs of nerve damage two days after the accident, the permanent nerve damage never would have happened.
Through extensive investigation and forcing us to proceed with this lawsuit, I was able to learn that one or more doctors had sutured the wound closed. What made this case so fascinating is that the doctor or doctors who stitched this patient up, never wrote a note in the hospital chart. It's almost as if they knew what they did was inappropriate and did not want to acknowledge it.
The case settled favorably during jury selection.