A Texas hospital has been ordered to pay millions of dollars in damages after a delay in treatment caused a woman’s spinal cord injury to turn into paralysis. The judgment ruled that the hospital likely could’ve prevented the injury if the patient had been treated in a timely manner.
Judy “Jessie” Adams, who is part of a singing-songwriting group with her husband, Richard, went to Premier Interventional Pain Management just before taking off on a long road trip with the hope that the doctors would be able to ease her back pain.
She received an epidural steroid injection (ESI) at the facility, but it ended up making her pain even worse.
“He [the physician] gave me the shot, but I couldn’t feel my legs. They were tingling, but I couldn’t feel them,” Adams explained. “The pain was so bad in my back.”
She remained in observation for 90 minutes at the facility before being taken to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital via an ambulance. The doctors in the ER started a STAT MRI to prepare for an emergency laminectomy, but the MRI wasn’t performed for another 90 minutes and the laminectomy didn’t begin until over five hours after she first arrived.
This was a violation of the hospital’s policies, which state that emergency surgeries must be performed within one hour of admittance in the first available surgical suite. The delay in care caused paralysis that took away her ability to sing.
They filed a lawsuit against the physician who initially treated Adams and Texas Health Presbyterian for the delay, but the suit against the doctor was settled ahead of trial. In their suit, Adams and her husband alleged that the doctor had probably “nicked a blood vessel during the ESI procedure, causing Jessie to hemorrhage.”
But the suit against the hospital went to court. “I kept screaming, ‘Help me,’” Adams testified. The delay in care left her confined to a wheelchair and incontinent, according to the suit.
The hospital fought the charges during the trial. Representatives for the facility argued that Adams was already paralyzed when she arrived at the facility and that there was no delay in her care.
But the jury sided with Adams and her husband. It awarded them $10.1 million in damages, including $500,000 for Richard Adams’s loss of future earnings and $1 million for his “loss of consortium” with his wife.
Richard said he now plans to spend the rest of his life taking care of his wife instead of playing music together. Both of them are devastated to know that their music careers are effectively over.
“Music was our lifeblood for so many years, and he can’t do it anymore,” Adams said after the trial. “He goes upstairs to play his guitar and write, and suddenly I need him to come and cath me. I just feel like I’m going to wake up from this bad dream, but it’s the same routine.”