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After 'Tragedy of Errors,' Woman Awarded Millions

Carolyn Boerste had to have leg amputated after nurses left sponge in her
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2020 10:00 AM CST

(Newser) – A woman whose leg was amputated six years after undergoing heart surgery was awarded $10.5 million by a jury last month, after what her lawyers say was a "tragedy of errors" by multiple medical personnel. "Everything has changed," Carolyn Boerste says, per WAVE, which along with the Courier-Journal lays out what happened to Boerste following the 2011 bypass procedure at University of Louisville Hospital. A case summary prepared by her attorneys explains that a surgeon cut one of her veins and had to clean up a "bloody mess" using surgical sponges. Nurses getting ready for lunch were supposed to count the sponges afterward but didn't, and an 18-inch-by-18-inch sponge was inadvertently left inside her. Four years later, the sponge disintegrated into her intestine, and during treatment for the resulting gastrointestinal issues, a CT scan at another hospital spotted the sponge.

The doctor who ordered the CT scan never told Boerste about the sponge, though, nor did her own doctor at Family Health Centers, who received a copy of the scan. Nearly two years later, the sponge ended up blocking her intestine and was finally removed in 2017. But while recovering at Franciscan Health Care Center, Boerste says inadequate care there led to her leg amputation. Boerste was awarded $9.5 million for pain and suffering and medical expenses, and $1 million in punitive damages. She settled with Franciscan before trial; her claim against Family Health Centers is still pending. The December verdict amount was reduced by 30% to $7.65 million to offset funds from those two. A University of Louisville Health rep says they'll appeal. (Read more amputation stories.)

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