HOUSTON (CN) - A man says his wife suffered brain damage that left her with the mind of a 5-year-old because a hospital's emergency room staff mistook her heartbeat as their unborn son's, and discharged her when the child was already dead. An ultrasound two weeks later revealed the child's death, but the fetus became infected before it was removed and caused the mother's brain damage, according to the complaint in Harris County Court.
Adam Cortez says he took his pregnant wife, Angela, to Methodist Hospital at Willowbrook because of her "relentless vomiting."
After a second emergency room visit, her doctor ordered a nurse to care for Angela at home, to administer IV fluids and medication, Cortez says.
While performing a routine exam of Angela one day, the nurse said she could not hear the baby's heartbeat, Cortez says.
They returned to Methodist's emergency room and explained the situation to a nurse. "Angela began crying hysterically at the thought of losing her baby," according to the complaint.
"After trying for a few minutes, the nurse told them the same thing: she was not able to hear the baby's heartbeat either," Cortez says.
A male technician came to help the nurse find the baby's heartbeat, Cortez says.
The complaint continues:
"Time went by and the tension and worry mounted. 'I found it,' the technician finally announced. He told Adam and Angela that he had found the baby's heartbeat.
"'But how do you know this is the baby's heartbeat?' Adam asked.
"Well, this heartbeat is about 154, the technician explained. An adult heartbeat would be lower, at around 90 to 100. A baby's heartbeat would be about 150-160. Yeah, your baby is fine.
"'Are you sure?' Adam asked.
"'I am positive.' The technician replied. The technician and nurse again told Adam and Angela their baby was fine and that they could go home now." (Punctuation as in complaint.)
When Angela's condition did not improve and she nearly passed out in the shower, her husband took her back to Methodist's emergency room, where an ultrasound showed that his baby did not have a heartbeat, according to the complaint.
A doctor told him that "according to the ultrasound, their son had been dead for nearly three weeks. That meant that he was dead the last time they came to Methodist Willowbrook, two weeks ago, and were told that his heart was still beating," according to the complaint.
When Angela awoke from the surgery that removed the dead fetus, she was delirious, Cortez says.
"She was not making any sense most of the time, and when she did make sense, she just kept asking what had transpired over and over again," he says in the complaint.
"Right when Angela was waking up, she went into a seizure," he says.
She remained unresponsive for three weeks and she now has trouble communicating, Cortez says.
"Angela has no memory of her life before - at least she cannot speak of it," the complaint states. "She speaks like a 5-year-old child."
Cortez seeks punitive damages for gross negligence from The Methodist Hospital System and two doctors. He is represented by Jack McGehee, with McGehee and Chang.
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