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Hospital Sued Over CAT Scan Mistake

Nov 29, 2003 | St. Petersburg Times When Sharon Drews arrived at Citrus Memorial Hospital the morning after her husband Kenneth went to the emergency room for treatment of sharp stomach pains, the Drews' family doctor greeted her with mixed news: Kenneth Drews' stomach was doing better, the doctor said, but he was worried about his patient's arm.

"What do you mean his arm? He didn't come in for his arm," Sharon Drews, 64, remembered thinking.

What happened to Kenneth Drews' arm Nov. 2, 2002, is now being debated in a Citrus County lawsuit. The Drews have filed a lawsuit against Citrus Memorial and are seeking more than $15,000 in damages for what they claim was a CAT scan gone painfully wrong.

The hospital's lawyers filed answers and an affirmative defense earlier this month that denied all allegations of negligence, court records show.

In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Kenneth Drews described how a procedure that should have been routine has drastically altered the retirement years he had hoped to spend hunting and fishing.

The morning after the 67-year-old Floral City man was admitted to Citrus Memorial, a radiographic technician performed a CAT scan using a dye that would make Drews' insides more clear for viewing, and help doctors determine what was wrong with his stomach. The technician was supposed to insert the dye through a vein in Drews' left hand.

But the dye oozed into his arm cavity instead, Kenneth Drews said.

"The technician did not properly monitor where the dye was going," said the Drewses' lawyer. "This went on for several minutes before the technician realized there was a mistake."

Drews' arm quickly became numb and useless. A doctor determined that emergency surgery would be the only way to save the arm from amputation, the Drewses said.

Surgeons had to make long cuts down the top and bottom of the arm to drain the material out. The couple has grisly pictures from the following days when the skin flaps were left open to aid the drainage.

Several surgeries followed, first to cover the wound with skin from Drews' hip and later to repair the initial wound. The final of five surgeries took place at Seven Rivers Regional Medical Center in February.

In a maddening twist, Kenneth Drews' stomach pain cleared on its own.

The medical procedures have taken both a physical and emotional toll on the couple, their suit states. The Drewses said they were forced to sell a new summer home in Indiana because Kenneth, who is retired from construction work, didn't have strength for its upkeep.

It is too painful for him to cut the grass, a struggle to hold the steering wheel in the car and too tiring to do the woodwork that used to fill much of his free time.

"My quality of life has just went down the tube," Kenneth Drews said. "It's certainly not what we expected our golden years to be."

The couple and their lawyer alerted the hospital in May that they would file the medical malpractice lawsuit after a 90-day waiting period.

In its response to the suit, the hospital acknowledged receiving this notice. However, court records show that Citrus Memorial is alleging the Drewses "were themselves negligent, and such negligences contributed to the cause of their alleged damages, so that their claims are barred . . . "

The hospital's response also states that if there was any negligence, it was "solely the result of negligence on the part of third parties who are not under the care, custody, control or supervision" of the hospital. Therefore, Citrus Memorial lawyers argued, the couple could not recover damages from the hospital.

The defense did not identify the third party.

Both sides have requested a jury trial.

The incident boils down to a mistake that has had a "catastrophic effect" on the Drewses' lives said there attorney.

"Bottom line is, it shouldn't have happened," Kenneth Drews said.

"And it shouldn't happen again," added his wife.

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