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Expert opinions: ICU nurses & trauma surgeons miss signs of infection, sepsis, causing patient death Contact Now

Painter Law Firm files medical malpractice lawsuit involving man's death at Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont, Texas

Expert opinions: ICU nurses & trauma surgeons miss signs of infection, sepsis, causing patient death

Painter Law Firm recently filed a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit against Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital, in Beaumont, Texas. The Jefferson County District Clerk assigned the case a cause number B-203726, in the 60th District Court, where The Hon. Justin Sanderson is the presiding judge. You can read the original petition here.

Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital is a 431-bed acute care hospital located at 2830 Calder Avenue, Beaumont, Texas 77702.

The case involves care that was provided to a man in his 40s who was involved in a car wreck in July 2018. He went to the emergency room (ER) and, fortunately, even though the airbag was deployed, he didn’t suffer any head trauma. He was treated for injuries including a fractured pelvis and some internal bleeding, but nothing was life-threatening.

He was admitted to the trauma intensive care unit (ICU) and stabilized over the next two days. Then he developed a fever of 101 degrees and had critically-elevated lactate levels. Even though these are clear signs of infection and sepsis, the nursing staff didn't notify the trauma surgeons who were handling his critical care, which kept them from having the patient's full clinical picture. Despite this fact, the trauma surgerons should have done a more thorough workup based on the limited information available to them. 

The next afternoon, it was more of the same sub-standard care, according to our experts. The nurses recorded that he had a fever of 101.6 degrees, but didn't notify anyone. The trauma surgeons didn't order any cultures or additional antibiotics then, either. The next day, a chest x-ray suggested pulmonary edema and/or pneumonia in both lungs, and his oxygen levels plummeted to the point that he went into severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Again, all of the signs pointed to sepsis, but in a nursing and physician system failure, our experts believe that this man needlessly lost his life, passing away just one week after his car wreck.

As part of our thorough investigation and workup of this case, we hired a board-certified critical care physician and an ICU nurse to review the care that was provided. The meical expert shared his opinion that this man didn’t die from his injuries from the accident. Instead, he died from avoidable injuries in the hospital. In the health industry, they call these iatrogenic or hospital-acquired injuries.

Specifically, our experts are critical of the trauma surgeons and nursing staff for failing to recognize the clear, textbook signs of infection and sepsis. The doctors should have immediately ordered cultures and started him on broad-spectrum antibiotics, covering both types of bacteria, including gram-positive and gram-negative bugs.

When this young patient died, someone wrote in the medical records “possible sepsis” and “DO NOT APPROACH THE FAMILY” about organ donation. The autopsy showed that yes, in fact, this patient had infection. In fact, the bacteria causing it was something he also caught in the hospital, Serratia marcescens.

In our critical care expert’s opinion, this man in his 40s would’ve survived and fully recovered from his car accident injuries if the nurses and trauma surgeons had treated his hospital-acquired infection appropriately. Instead, a sad Beaumont family is still grieving at the loss of their loved one.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.

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