Labor Day In The Hinterland

Means another long work day for the trial team.  I won’t bore you with the details of traveling out here other than to say that waiting an hour for your luggage to pop up on the carousel causes heart palpations when your final destination is two hours away.  I couldn’t even figure out a fix.  Thankfully, after that hour any fix was unneeded.  The conveyor belt had broken.

A little background.  After this trial my career in civil law will be basically finished.  I’ll continue to do focus groups when asked, will do jury selections, and will work with my friend, a court appointed criminal defense attorney in Boston, but I’m pretty done with the nuts and bolts of trial consultation on civil cases—though I’ll always be proud of my soul brother lawyer, Ron, who I’ve worked for and his unending commitment to those who have been screwed by major corporations and institutions who don’t have a second thought about buggering people in the pursuit of profit.

But I’m a writer.  Despite my heartfelt political values which are dear and clear, once I discovered it was possible to publish my work without dealing with traditional publishing houses, the invitation to return to that which who I am became a temptation too sweet to ignore at my age–despite the long, long odds of going viral.  Sometimes you just got to push all the chips into the middle of the table.

Will I succeed in actually earning a living by going this route?  Honestly, I don’t know.  Am I able to write as well as I did when my first book was a “New York Times Notable”—I don’t know that either.  It’s been 16, 17 years and those years have created a different me.  But that’s part of the challenge and temptation.  And why I’m continuing the Matt Jacob series because I want to discover the differences in who I am.

But I’m not there yet.  Right now I’m eyeball deep in our court case which is about a 30 year old woman who worked at a hospital as a nurse and every one of her heart attack symptoms she presented on a particular day was blown off by the admitting doctor (who was a friend and colleague so you can imagine how difficult it was for her to even contemplate a lawsuit) and the hospital for which she worked.  This was a woman to whom they turned a blind eye to classic heart attack symptoms (shoulder pain, back pain, jaw pain, vomiting, and the overwhelming feeling that she was dying) because she was “too young” and had, in the recent past, G.I. issues.  Rather than checking for a heart attack, an easy do, the doctor, despite his own notes which suggested potential cardiac issues, let her lay in the hospital for nine and a half hours before they eventested for an attack.  This, despite their inability to find any GI issues for which they tested.

I’ve come to learn the term “differential diagnosis” means when a doctor sees a patient and listens to their symptoms they are bound to check first for anything that might be, in any way, life threatening.  The admitting nurse documented “shoulder pain, back pain, jaw pain.  Classic heart attack signs and symptoms that were obviously ignored.

Now this is bad enough.  But the truth is, the actual reality is even worse.  This is a woman who has had liver disease since she was ten years old and the doctor and hospital knew it.  Also, a woman who had a significant history of familial heart problems which the admitting doctor knew, noted, and simply ignored.

Negligence seems pretty cut and dry?  (Even the judge in a meeting with our lawyers said, “hell, even a gynecologist would have recognized her symptoms.”)

Settle and be done, right?.  Not here.  The defense has decided to play the “rape card.”  You got raped?  Well, you must have invited it.  Here it’s not much less subtle.  Here it’s “you were a nurse, why didn’t you tell the doctor you were having a heart attack when you called him?  (She called him when she was vomiting out of her car in a parking lot on the way to work and he told her to bypass the E.R. and he’d admit her directly to the hospital though he says he told her to go to the E.R. but he never took her to the E.R. when she arrived at the hospital nor did he ever record that he told her that in his notes.  Both of which heshould have done if he’d actually told her to go there.)  “you’re a nurse, why didn’t you know you were having a heart attack?” “Why didn’t you diagnose what you had and tell the doctor you were having a heart attack as opposed to just the symptoms?”

This shit makes me crazy.  I understand and accept human errors.  We all make ’em.  But this really is a medical rape defense.  The woman was upchucking out the window of her car, had explosive diarrhea that drove her into a department store, pain that  was the worst she’d ever felt in her life, thought she was dying, and their defense says she should have done her own diagnosis.

What the fuck am I missing here?

That kind of bullshit just doesn’t pass the sniff test.  It was precisely because she was going through that extreme trauma that she called her “friend” the doctor that she knew was the hospitalist on duty at that time.

I’m angry enough to keep on venting for pages but what’s truly painful is the knowledgethat the defense is safely betting a trial will go in their favor because of our geographic location.  The hospital is one of the largest employers in the area.  They have their hands in virtually every pie in the county, and are secure in the knowledge that the largest award ever given in a lawsuit was a million dollars and that award was given to a corporation.

Today I met with our client who is on five days a week dialysis (we are not asking for any money for her kidney condition, only the damage that the heart attack created and added to her compromised body.  Not insignificant, since the delay in treatment of her heart blockage resulted in multiple transfusions which raised her antibodies which now has made a kidney transplantunlikely.)

Enough background.  It’s late, I’m exhausted, and if my writing is less than the quality you have come to expect I apologize. This has become an emotional experience for me and I’m caring more about my client and justice—hell, decency, than wordsmithing.

The judge has demanded that all party’s show up at the courtroom on Tuesday to try, once again, to reach a settlement.  I’m not optimistic but will let you know what happens.  And again, please excuse the quality of my prose.  After spending the day and night with our client then her mother and stepfather I’m tired and terribly sad.

More to come.

“Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.” – George Woodbury

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