A doctor’s tragic mistake has devastating effects
In January of 2019, Steve Hamel woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating pain on his left side; he was coughing and having issues breathing. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance where he had an X-ray and a CT Scan to troubleshoot the issue. Steve was given IV antibiotics and painkillers and sent home, but the pain persisted.
After a week of continued pain and coughing, Steve returned to the doctor. He was told that he would need a thoracentesis procedure to remove excess fluid from the space between his lungs and chest wall. Known as a pleural effusion, this procedure is commonly used on patients experiencing fluid build-up from pneumonia or other lung infections.
Every invasive procedure has risks, but side effects are uncommon with thoracentesis. Steve and his wife Lisa went into the hospital hopeful that Steve would soon feel better and return to his normal life. Instead, Steve found himself facing the challenge of his life.
A common procedure turned emergency nightmare changes Steve’s life forever
Using an ultrasound to guide him, the doctor performing Steve’s procedure inserted a needle into his back. Steve felt a significant push and then a sharp pain. He began feeling dizzy, sweating profusely, and experiencing tunnel vision.
In a split-second tragic mistake, an artery feeding Steve’s spleen had been punctured. He was rushed to another hospital to remove the needle and then remove his damaged spleen. The surgery involved an incision from his sternum to pubic bone. A seemingly low-risk procedure quickly turned into a life-and-death situation. This was an outcome no one expected.
Thankfully, Steve survived the surgery, but remained in the hospital for ten days, during which time he was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit following complications. Eventually, he endured two follow-up surgeries, all because of the doctor’s initial mistake. Steve experienced excruciating pain at the hospital, which continued for many months after he returned home.
Facing a new normal – “Every part of my life comes with a risk-benefit analysis”
There are many dangers associated with not having a spleen. Infections such as strep and pneumonia can be deadly. Because of this, every facet of Steve’s personal and professional life has been profoundly changed. He can no longer take part in the Spartan races he loves. His plans to hike and camp, as well as travel abroad with his wife, have been put on hold. Career advancement opportunities have been stalled. Any physical activities, even playing with his beloved German Shepard, are now off limits.
At the prime of his life, Steve went from being a joyful, fun-loving father, devoted husband, and active community member to a man riddled with intense pain, fear, and anxiety. As Steve says, “it’s been a long, painful road, both physically and emotionally.”
Resolving this case brings peace and closure
Steve and Lisa came to Berman & Simmons at the most stressful time in their lives facing substantial medical bills, unanswered questions, and an uncertain future, punctuated by the COVID-19 pandemic. After working with the medical malpractice lawyers at Berman & Simmons for 18 months, the case was resolved successfully, giving Steve and Lisa peace of mind, closure, and the chance to move forward with their lives.
“Working with the legal team at Berman & Simmons was very reassuring. They were very concerned about us as individuals and how working through the legal process would affect our family. They were very good about managing our expectations, while being very candid and real with us, which I really appreciated. They were caring, compassionate, honest people who were simply trying to make sure the right things happened for us. I would recommend that anybody who has suffered an injury due to medical malpractice work with Berman & Simmons to advocate for them.” – S. Hamel