A Lasting Impact

Hospital records and testimony from the patient’s heart surgeon confirmed that the valve replacement surgery was a success in every way. The patient was recovering faster than expected, and was transferred sooner than anticipated from the ICU to an in-patient unit where cardiac surgery patients are monitored continuously during the remainder of their recovery period. The patient was alert and stable, and reaching all anticipated recovery milestones.

In the early morning hours of post-operative day two, the patient’s heart rate slowed significantly. The patient’s surgeon explained that slowing of the heart rate is not an uncommon occurrence in the initial recovery period – it usually results from the normal healing process. In fact, the heart surgeon planned for this possibility by implanting temporary pacing wires. Temporary pacing wires are left exposed through the patient’s chest incision and function much like jumper cable do in a car – when connected, they connect the patient’s heart muscle to an external power source (a pacemaker) which delivers electric stimulation to accelerate the heart to the desired heartrate (this is known as “pacing”). Despite the sounding of at least four heart monitor alarms indicating a dangerously slow heart rate, however, Hartford Hospital personnel never connected the patient’s temporary pacing wires to an external pacemaker to restore his normal heart rate.

Even worse, Faxon Law Group discovered that the patient’s slowed heart rate was not just typical post-operative slowing. Faxon Law Group discovered that, about one minute after the third of the heart monitor alarms, the patient was given a potent narcotic – ten times more powerful than morphine – as he remained unconnected to a pacemaker. This powerful medication caused the patient’s heart rate to slow even more – ultimately resulting in cardiac arrest (no heartbeat). Faxon Law Group discovered also that the midlevel provider (above the registered nurse) who was assigned to the patient never went to see the patient after being alerted to his dangerously slow heart rate.

Without the protection of a pacemaker and with no heartbeat, the patient’s brain was deprived of critical blood flow and oxygen, leading to severe and irreversible brain damage. He was placed on a ventilator, but three days later—with no hope of restoring brain function—artificial life support was removed. The patient left behind a wife, two daughters, one son, and one grandson.

Faxon Law Group attacked the case head-on and, as we do in every case we accept, prepared for a hard-fought trial. Results in complex medical malpractice cases such as this one can only be achieved with proven advocacy skills and a forward-thinking mindset. Our firm presented the jury with all the facts, from every angle, including key testimony from the patient’s heart surgeon, an expert cardiologist and an expert registered nurse.

Before trial, the hospital denied all responsibility and refused to make any offers of compensation. After only a few hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of $5.8 million dollars. For the family, it was a great relief not only to have answers and accountability, but also to move beyond the significant stresses of wrongful death litigation. Faxon Law Group assured that Hartford Hospital was held fully responsible, both publicly and financially, for its wrongdoings.

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