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Kaiser Patient: Infection Ignored Due to ‘Weekend’

WASHINGTON (CN) - A man has sued Kaiser for $5 million, alleging that he nearly died when labs showed a "significant infection" but he was not treated or even notified because it was "the weekend." The infection was in his spine and resulted in quadriplegia and complete disability, his complaint says.

Johnny B. Wright sued Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc., for medical negligence in the District of Columbia Superior Court. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, he blames Kaiser for the negligence of Kaiser doctors Rumana T. Shameem and Dr. Francis A. Freisinger, an unidentified Kaiser advice nurse and other Kaiser doctors who treated him at (non-Kaiser) Holy Cross Hospital. His wife Linda E. Wright sued for loss of consortium.

Johnny Wright says in his complaint that he was diagnosed with "a wrist strain, back strain and inflammatory arthritis," at (non-party) Doctor's Community Hospital on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010. He says he called Kaiser advice nurse (non-party) Heather Thomas early the next morning, because the pain medications he was given were not bringing relief. At her suggestion, he visited a Kaiser facility where Dr. Shameem saw him and ordered an x-ray and complete blood count, injected him with Toradol, and then sent him home with Prednisone and Oxycodone, according to the complaint. Prednisone is used for arthritis because it suppresses the immune system, according to online sources.

Mr. Wright says the blood count results, reported that afternoon, "indicated that plaintiff was suffering from a significant infection. However, as it was now the weekend, no effort was made to notify plaintiff of these laboratory results and plaintiff was not treated for an infection."

Twice during the weekend: "plaintiff's wife Linda E. Wright called the Kaiser advice nurse to report that her husband's condition was deteriorating. She reported that Mr. Wright had a fever, was lethargic, and continued to have severe arm and neck pain. Linda Wright was not informed of the lab results and was advised to continue the prescribed treatment," according to the complaint.

When Mr. Wright fainted Sunday, he was taken to (non-Kaiser) Prince George's Hospital Center, and early the next morning, "was transferred to Holy Cross Hospital as requested by Kaiser Permanente," the complaint says.

Mr. Wright alleges that there he had "an apparent arrest, and a code blue was called," while he was under the care of Kaiser physician Dr. Friesinger, and that he was hemorrhaging from an ulcer caused by pain medications, including those ordered by Dr. Shameem.

By Dec. 23, Mr. Wright had a fever of 101.3 degrees, fluid retention in his spine, and pain that required morphine. After he had undergone a series of tests, a radiologist noted difficulty reading his MRI and recommended repeating the test under sedation. However, the MRI was not repeated, the complaint states.

Finally, on Dec. 25, a nurse noted that "Mr. Wright was unable to move his lower extremities and had weak movement of his upper extremities. Neurology and neurosurgical consultations were obtained and repeat cervical and thoracic MRIs were performed which demonstrated progression of Mr. Wright's spinal infection as well as compression of his spinal cord," the complaint says. Emergency surgery revealed an abscess, but "Mr. Wright had already suffered permanent neurologic injuries from the compression of his spinal cord," according to the complaint.

Mr. Wright contends that his injuries include "motor incomplete tetraplegia from which he is totally and permanently disabled." Online medical resources describe tetraplegia as a loss of motor function affecting all four limbs. It is also called "quadriplegia."

The Wrights seek a jury trial, $5 million plus interest for Mr. Wright, and $1 million plus interest for Mrs. Wright. They are represented by Jon J. Sellinger of Greenberg & Bederman in Silver Spring, Md.

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