Discussions By Condition: Medical Errors

Firefighter suffers CVA, misdiagnosed for a year...

Posted In: Medical Errors 1 Replies
  • Posted By: Anonymous
  • July 18, 2010
  • 09:02 PM

I'm 35, have a wife and 2 boys, and 7 years service with a fire dept. In Aug. of 2008, I suffered a CVA (stroke) on duty, which was written off as a TIA, although a small anomaly in the brain was noted in the CT or MRI. Immediately upon release from the hospital I began having what was diagnosed as Partial Complex Seizures 5-8 times a day for the next year. I advised my Neurologist (the same one from the hospital that diagnosed the CVA as a TIA) that I was feeling a brief anxiety or fear and other strange feelings for a few seconds, then I would babble incoherently for about a minute. He said it was anxiety attacks and placed me on xanax.(sp?) I advised him that I didn't think it was an anxiety attack because we run on those through the fire dept frequently and it didn't resemble one, nor did it ever last more than 2 minutes. Anyhow, a year after the diagnosis, I wrecked a Rescue truck while having a seizure and was finally properly diagnosed by a different hospital and neurologist.

Since then, my weight has dropped from 220 to 145 lbs (I'm nearly 6ft) and I throw up almost daily. I take meds to control the seizures and I cannot return to duty with the dept. My income and insurance are out this month.

Do I have any recourse against my doctors?

Thank you!

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  • Hi Firefighter,I empathize with your story. I'm sorry that this has happened to you and I hope that not only will you recover fully, but any and all liable parties will be held responsible. I'm not a doc or a lawyer, but I've had trouble with mis-diagnosis as well. Here's some of what I've learned:1. Docs aren't expected to be perfect. They are within the law to make "human" mistakes or to operate within "acceptable risk limits". 2. It's only considered to be malpractice if the doctor you have seen "deviates from the standard of care" willfully and negligently. Meaning, that this neuro you saw had to have done something (or not) that other docs in his field would/would not have done, on purpose. Negligence is an important factor. So, if your doc ran all the standard tests and did all the standard follow-ups, he's within the law even if the diagnosis he reaches is wrong. I would question him under this one though......I'm no doctor, but I'm well-informed about 'babbling' as a sign of a more significant problem than anxiety. I've never in my life heard of that being overlooked.....it's really fishy to me. Also, the duration of your 'anxiety' was so short-- I would think a work-up to confirm that it was indeed anxiety would be standard. What did the doctor say when you challenged him on this? That might be key. Also, why were you allowed to drive?3. It's a patient's responsibility to sort out their own medical issues. If you do not feel your current doc is reaching a plausible diagnosis, it's your right and maybe more importantly your responsibility to seek a second (or third or twentieth) opinion until you are personally satisfied with the diagnosis. In other words, if you disagree with a diagnosis and yet do not seek out another opinion, in the eyes of the law if anything happens it is your fault not the diagnosing doc's. Doesn't seem quite fair to me, but I can see the point. 4. You must be able to prove damages (financial, physical) resulting from the error. I think this one will be a no-brainer for you. A problem arises in the part that you must prove that any damages are the direct result of the error. That's really hard to prove. The doctor can argue that the problems with your health and occupation right now would have been the same even if he had acted more prudently-- i.e. that although he didn't get the diagnosis correct, the results are the same. I can't say in your case of course, just be aware that any damages must be the direct result of the error(s).I know that's not very encouraging, but I do hope it's helpful. Also, most lawyers in my area at least do not charge a consultation fee-- you can plead your case to them for free and they will let you know if they think it is worth pursuing. Also, please note that all US states are different with malpractice laws (I have no idea how other countries handle this!). What I've stated above is pretty general. Honestly, I'd be concerned with getting the proper diagnosis now. You are very young to have a CVA (and as you are a firefighter, I'm going to assume reasonably fit). Do you know what caused the CVA and what you can do to prevent another one? Are you on any meds other than for the seizures (cholesterol, blood thinners)? I know your work (or lack thereof) is important for you and your family.....but so is your life. I wish you all the best in finding solutions.
    Harmonium 322 Replies Flag this Response
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