Massive Strokes Blamed on Kaiser Delays

     DENVER (CN) - A man's car crash injuries worsened as Kaiser doctors dallied, resulting in massive strokes and severe brain damage, he claims in a lawsuit.
     Steven Henni sued Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado, Colorado Permanente Medical Group, P.C., Erik Youngblood, M.D., Ian Parsons, M.D. and Michelle Colonna, a nurse's aide, in Denver County District Court.
     Henni, now 59, hurt his head and neck in a car accident in June 2012, he says in his complaint.
     Nine days later, Henni says, his wife called Kaiser and told a nurse he "had developed numbness in his left arm and had lost the majority of his grip in his left hand ... and was unable to put his wallet into his own back pocket."
     About two weeks after that, Henni saw his primary care physician, Dr. Erik Youngblood, who "noted that Mr. Henni had no prior history of any neck problems prior to the car crash, that he had hypertension, that his neck hurt a couple days after the car crash, that he developed left arm weakness, numbness and tingling, and that he was now having difficulty with simple motor tasks such as typing. Dr. Youngblood diagnosed Mr. Henni with 'whiplash' and ordered no testing," the complaint states.
     Throughout July, Henni says, his left hand numbness got worse while a Kaiser nurse told him on the phone that "he only had 'whiplash' and no testing was ordered."
     On July 25, Henni saw Dr. Ian Parsons, who let him get an x-ray, the complaint continues. The radiologist's report noted "if there is a history of prior trauma, consider CT followup or repeat views with more neutral lateral positioning," but Henni did not see that report, he says. Instead, nurse's aide Michelle Colonna told him on the phone that he had arthritis, according to the complaint.
     "Mr. Henni was not told by Ms. Colonna, or anyone else, that the radiologist had instructed that a CT follow up should be considered if Mr. Henni had a history of prior trauma. If Mr. Henni had been given this information, he would have obtained a CT because Mr. Henni did have a recent history of prior trauma. Due, in part, to Ms. Colonna's failure to properly, accurately and adequately communicate to Mr. Henni the results, findings and recommendations of the radiologist's report on the x-ray, Mr. Henni did not undergo a follow-up CT scan," the complaint states.
     When his symptoms still were not better on Aug. 6, Henni had an MRI, followed by a series of email exchanges between him and Dr. Youngblood, the complaint states.
     When Henni asked for his MRI results, Dr. Youngblood wrote in an email, "It was reported today and it looks good from my perspective," according to the complaint.
     "My hand recently started to swell. There is basically no improvement since I saw you five weeks ago. If I sleep on my left side, my hand reacts badly even to the point of freezing in a fist. I need some help. You mentioned a shot, can we move forward with that. I would also think that physical therapy is an option. It is difficult to do simple tasks like buttoning my pants or my shirt. Typing is impossible and is an integral part of my job. I could go on and on how this injury has made my life more difficult. I need help," Henni says he wrote in an email to Dr. Youngblood.
     The next day Dr. Youngblood referred him to physical therapy and neurosurgery, prescribed an anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxant, and "stated that while he could not refer Mr. Henni to acupuncture, chiropractic or massage it would be 'fine' for Mr. Henni to pursue that treatment," according to the complaint.
     Five days later, Henni "suffered a series of massive brain damaging strokes," the complaint states. "As a result of the strokes, Mr. Henni sustained severe permanent brain damage," it says.
     Henni blames Dr. Youngblood and Dr. Parsons for delays in the diagnosis of stroke and failures to timely diagnose, treat and refer him to specialists which failures, he says, caused the massive strokes.
     Kaiser encourages its members and doctors to use phone and email communications instead of in-person visits, according to the complaint. "The purpose of this policy is to save money and increase corporate profit. However, this policy decreases patient safety," it states.
     Henni seeks compensatory and special damages; pre-judgment, pre-filing and post-judgment interest; witness and expert fees, filing fees, deposition expenses, attorneys' fees and a jury trial.
     He is represented by Peter A. McClenahan and Henry Miniter of Leventhal, Brown & Puga in Denver.