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Mom Blames Nerve Stimulator for Death

CHICAGO (CN) - A girl died of an epileptic seizure after an implanted vagus nerve stimulator failed, her mother claims in court.

Carol Holmes, mother of the late Rainia Holmes, sued Cyberonics, the University of Chicago Hospital, and Patti Ogden, APN (advanced practice nurse), in Cook County Court.

A vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) is a small device implanted under the skin that sends weak electrical signals to the brain. It is used to treat intractable epilepsy and some forms of depression.

Holmes says her daughter underwent surgery at University of Chicago Hospital in 2010, "to replace her existing vagus nerve stimulator with a new vagus nerve stimulator Therapy Demipulse Model Generator."

On January 13, 2011, "Ogden performed an adjustment of Rainia Holmes's VNS 103 at U of C," the complaint states.

"During the above referenced procedure, Ogden had trouble activating the VNS 103 implanted in Rainia Holmes. After multiple attempts, Ogden increased the normal output from 2 to 2.25 mA [milliamperes], and the mag output was increased from 2.25 to 2.5 mA."

Holmes claims that the adjusted device "was defective insofar as it ceased to operate on January 13, 2011 and January 14, 2011."

"On January 14, 2011, at or around 1:00 a.m., plaintiff's decedent Rainia Holmes suffered a seizure which abated after a magnet was used to activate the VNS 103.

"On January 14, 2011, at 7 a.m., plaintiff's decedent Rainia Holmes was found unresponsive and was pronounced dead upon arrival to the hospital."

The mom adds: "A VNS 103 should not cease to operate in the absence of negligence by the adjuster of the manufacturer of the vagus nerve stimulator."

She seeks damages for strict liability, negligence, breach of warranty, and wrongful death.

She is represented by Larry Rogers with Power, Rogers & Smith.

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