It is said that life is ironic. Occasionally an event comes along to prove that point, and today’s post is a tragic reminder of that.
The case is ironic because it involves catastrophic consequences of medical negligence, with the victim being a doctor and surgeon. The plaintiff doctor, 61 years old, underwent elective surgery for a condition known as cervical stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal. The operation required the placement of surgical screws into the spine, and the neurosurgeon performing the surgery drilled a hole into the plaintiff’s spinal cord. In the process, the surgeon punctured what is known as the dura of the spinal column, which is the membrane covering the spinal cord. The plaintiff awoke from the surgery a quadriplegic.
Following the surgery, the plaintiff underwent extensive inpatient physical rehabilitation for two months. Following months of physical therapy and medical management, he slowly – and surprisingly – improved. Before his rehabilitation began, he had to be lifted out of bed by an electric lift in order to be placed into a wheelchair. He had to be essentially “retrained” in every aspect of daily living, including not only basic ambulating, but in controlling bladder and bowel movements, and basic motor skills. Upon inpatient discharge, the plaintiff then had to undergo more extensive physical therapy for several additional months. He progressed from a wheelchair, to walking with forearm crutches, to using a walker, and he now walks with a cane. All in all, a miraculous recovery, most likely due to the fact that even though the doctor performing the surgery perforated the membrane covering the spinal cord, the spinal cord itself wasn’t punctured.