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$2.5 Million Settlement for Patient Who Dies After Surgery

The family of a woman who went into the hospital for a one-day surgery has settled a wrongful death claim filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County on behalf of her estate for $2,500,000. An order approving the settlement was entered by the Honorable Kathy M. Flanagan.

The 40-year-old victim, legally blind since birth, worked out of her home in Downers Grove as a billings system consultant. On May 29, 2009, she had minimally invasive surgery at Loyola University Medical Center to remove a cyst on her ovary, believed to be the cause of unrelenting abdominal pain. Dr. Katherine D. Matta, a hospital employee gynecologist, found dense adhesions requiring a difficult dissection of the bowel during surgery. No complications were noted or appreciated by her.

The victim’s anticipated discharge within 23 hours did not occur when she complained of severe abdominal pain in spite of narcotic pain control. Late in the afternoon of May 30, 2009, her heart rate increased, and she had shortness of breath. An abdominal CT ordered by Dr. Freager Williams, another Loyola employee gynecologist, showed fluid and a possible bowel obstruction. A lung study ruled out a pulmonary embolus. None of the ordered tests ruled out a perforation of the colon, a known complication of the surgery the victim had.

Only after the victim’s blood pressure dropped very low to dangerous levels, early in the morning on June 1, 2009, a surgeon examined her.  It was immediately determined that she needed more surgery. During that surgery, at 6:00 a.m. on June 1, 2009, two holes were found in the intestines, one in the large bowel and one in the small bowel.

Unfortunately, on the operating room table, prior to induction of anesthesia, the victim went into cardiac arrest. After surgery, she was ventilator dependent with fixed and dilated pupils. She had no meaningful brain function. After removal from the ventilator, she died on June 2, 2009.

The victim’s family was represented by Susan J. Schwartz of Corboy & Demetrio.

 Ms. Schwartz said:  “She was very ill. She had what was described as a difficult surgery.   A bowel perforation is a known complication. Patients should get better every hour

after surgery.  She did not. When her blood work showed severe leukopenia, a sharp decrease in her white blood count, a sign of sepsis or an infection in the blood, in this setting, the most likely explanation was a bowel perforation. To survive, she needed to be taken back to surgery before the infection destroyed her bowel and caused her brain to swell.”

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