LOS ANGELES (CN) – A Southern California nurse says in a state court lawsuit that doctors at a Kaiser hospital botched the repair of her broken wrist so badly that it left her arm useless and her hand stuck in a claw. According to the complaint, her chance to repair the wrist passed because of a Kaiser delay in scheduling surgery.
Tanisha Dickens, a 35 year old labor and delivery nurse, broke her left ankle and wrist while skating in 2011. She received treatment for her injuries at the Kaiser Hospital in Downey where doctors performed a closed reduction of her fractured wrist.
Closed reduction refers to the practice of repairing a fracture by realigning the bone fragments without surgical exposure.
Dickens received follow up care from Kaiser for some time afterward, according to her superior court complaint. She says that Kaiser doctors bungled the repair of her arm, and apparently failed to notice.
“Defendants, and each of them, were so negligent in all phases of their diagnosis, care and treatment of plaintiff’s left wrist fracture that plaintiff was injured. These injuries include, but are not limited to, causing plaintiff to develop a severe infection as a result of a break in technique which went undiagnosed and untreated, loss of alignment of the fracture, compartment syndrome and the need for multiple surgeries to treat her injuries which defendants caused,” Dickens’s complaint states.
Compartment syndrome is a limb- and life-threatening condition where nerves, blood vessels and muscles inside a closed space within the body are compressed by swelling pressure, leading to tissue death from lack of oxygenation and blood supply.
“More specifically, as a direct and proximate result of defendants’ negligence, plaintiff was required to undergo numerous debridement surgeries and allograft procedures, which resulted in significant loss of muscle, tissue and bone in her upper left extremity,” Dickens says in her complaint.
“The fingers of her left hand are now contracted in a claw-like position with little to no grip strength or motor function. Her upper left extremity has decreased range of motion, inability to supinate [turn so the palm faces upward], inability and difficulty in extending, flexing and lifting it, and ulnar deviation remains. Plaintiff’s left upper extremity, wrist and hand are now essentially useless,” Dickens’s complaint alleges.
Worst of all, Dickens says, the injuries Kaiser inflicted on her are permanent and irreversible.
“[P]laintiff cannot now do simple household requirements or otherwise care for herself. As a result, plaintiff will require lifetime attendant care. As a further direct and proximate result of defendants’ negligence, plaintiff will sustain a loss of earnings. Plaintiff is a registered nurse and is a trained and experienced labor and delivery nurse. Plaintiff was a staff L&D nurse for defendants. Due to her permanent and irreversible left upper extremity injury, plaintiff is no longer able to perform her duties as a staff L&D nurse. Most recently, plaintiff was required to resign from Centinela Hospital Medical Center due to the inability to perform her duties. Plaintiff is a 35 year old single mother with a 12 year old child to support and care for,” Dickens says in her complaint.
Dickens says she never suspected Kaiser’s negligence or malpractice until a Kaiser ombudsman told her that her case had been referred to the company’s risk management department.
“The ombudsman thereafter referred plaintiff to one of defendants’ surgeons who informed her that the infection (osteomyelitis) occurred as a result of a break-in technique when the wrist fracture was reduced, and that if she had been taken back to surgery within a week thereof-as she should have been-the injury in all likelihood would not have occurred,” Dickens’s complaint states.
“Plaintiff was also informed that due to a simple scheduling issue, her subsequent surgery was delayed beyond the one week ‘window of opportunity,'” Dickens concludes.
Southern California Permanente Medical Group, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan are named as defendants in Dickens’s lawsuit. In addition to Drs. Steele and Ballesteros, the suit also names Kaiser physician assistants Lawrence Poon, Nicholas Ortenzo, Marcel Motz, Jason Luciene, John Carlin and Michael Peralta.
Dickens is represented by Carl McMahan and Laura Morris in Los Angeles.