In 2003, 53-year-old David Fitzgerald entered RDH Medical Centre in Farmers Ranch for a routine stomach ulcer operation. Within days of the surgery, he went into septic shock. The hospital's infectious disease specialist failed to recognize that the patient contracted MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylcoccus Aureus, a common infection hazard present in almost every hospital and a recognized threat to patients.
"If the doctor had recognized that this was a MRSA infection and provided the right antibiotic treatment for my client, he would have walked out of hospital with both arms and legs--but that didn't happen," says Turley, with a sigh.
Despite the fact that Fitzgerald was coughing up green phlegm and clearly had a lung infection, a sure sign of MRSA, the doctor chose to focus on what he believed was infection confined to the site of the patient's incision.
"MRSA is everywhere, both in hospitals and in the community," says Turley. "According to the statistics from 2003 that we brought forward at trial, a third of all hospital infections are infections of the lungs—and a third of those lung infections are MRSA."
The question was not how Fitzgerald got the infection, but rather, what the doctor did to treat it. "He should have provided the patient with the full range of antibiotics including ones that would fight MRSA," Turley says. "He was not treated quickly and with the appropriate antibiotics."
Eventually the error was realized. To save his life, both arms and legs had to be amputated and his world was forever changed. "He is unable to work, or zip up his pants, or comb his hair, or go to the bathroom without help," says Turley, "and this is never going to change, he's never going to get better and he will need psychological help for the rest of his life.
"I can tell you from having spent a lot time with my client that people stare because he looks so different, and children--even adults--say inappropriate and hurtful things to him. He has chosen to withdraw from the Dallas community and lives out in the country now."
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Linda Turley began practicing law in 1983. She has been board certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 1988. Ms. Turley has the highest professional and ethical ranking among her peers (AV). She handles cases in Products Liability, Negligence, Medical Malpractice and Special Projects sections. Through out her career she has handled serious injury and death cases.