Alba Chavez arrived at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center for an outpatient laparoscopic procedure on Dec. 8, 2006. Following the gallbladder surgery Alba Chavez had abdominal pain, and doctors prescribed morphine and hydromorphone. Alba was given the pain medication and left alone when she was transferred between hospital units. Alba stopped breathing and suffered a hypoxic brain injury, which is caused by reduced supply of oxygen to the brain.
Cerebral hypoxia is typically grouped into four categories depending on the severity and location of the brain’s oxygen deprivation:
1. Diffuse cerebral hypoxia. A mild to moderate impairment of brain function due to low oxygen levels in the blood.
2. Focal cerebral ischemia; is a stroke occurring in a localized area that can either be acute (sudden onset)and/ or transient (of short duration). This may be due to a variety of medical conditions such as an aneuryrsm which causes a hemorrhagic stroke, or an occlusion occurring in the affected blood vessel/s due to a thrombus (thrombotic stroke) or embolus (embolic stroke). Focal cerebral ischemia constitutes a large majority of the clinical cases in stroke pathology with the infarct usually occurring in the middle cerebral artery (MCA).
3. Global cerebral ischemia. A complete stoppage of blood flow to the brain.
4. Massive Cerebral infarction; is a “stroke”, caused by complete oxygen deprivation due to an interference in cerebral blood flow which affects multiple areas of the brain.
Prolonged hypoxia induces neuronal cell death via apoptosis resulting in a hypoxic brain injury.
In the case of Alba Chavez, she went into a coma for 45 days. She did wake up, but she woke up as a quadriplegic. Chavez is confined to a wheelchair and has trouble speaking
The Plaintiff’s alleged that hospital nurses should not have left Chavez alone after surgery. As reported by the Daily Business Review, the family claimed the nurses were irresponsible when a heavily drugged Chavez was stripped of monitors and supplemental oxygen for the transfer. The allegation that they were irresponsible-is that they fell below the standard of care. In a Medical Malpractice Case allegations that treatment was not appropriate(below Standard of Care) must be presented by medical experts. In this case, testimony from a neurologist, nurse, pulmonologist and toxicologist was presented to argue Chavez was alone for seven to 10 minutes. In that time, she lost consciousness and stopped breathing.
Jurors reached their verdict Sept. 23, nearly three years after the family filed its negligence suit against the hospital, and sided with the family. The jury awarded $5.85 million in medical expenses and $1.5 million for pain and suffering. Winnie Santiago, Alba’s minor daughter was awarded $560,000 the loss of her mother’s services.
The hospital filed motions for a new trial and to set aside or amend the final judgment.