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Hospital Neglects Admitted Patient, Causing Emergency Surgery & Permanent Damage

A physician at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, Regional Hospital in New Mexico was presented with a young man suffering from a small bowel obstruction. The patient, an airman named Nathaniel who was stationed at a nearby military base, had a genetic condition that predisposed him to intestinal issues. Adhering to the standard of care, the doctor ordered a nasogastric tube be inserted through Nathaniel’s nostrils and into the stomach to alleviate the blockage. Unfortunately, when the hospital staff received the order, no one was qualified to perform the procedure. As a result, the patient's small bowel obstruction worsened, and he had to undergo emergency surgery.

Nathaniel entered Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center Hospital that day expecting to undergo a minor procedure to remove the obstruction. Unfortunately, as he awaited in futility for hospital staff to execute his doctor’s order, Nathaniel's small intestine began to expand from the blocked gases. Consequently, the only option to alleviate the pressure was surgical intervention. During the surgery, the operating physician misused Seprafilm, placing it directly on Nathaniel’s intestines. Unfortunately, this led to a second bowel obstruction, requiring surgeons to operate on Nathaniel once again. Adding insult to injury, during the second procedure, the surgeon failed to ligate bleeding arteries, which caused Nathaniel to become hypoxic and almost bleed to death.

As a result of the botched surgery, Nathaniel was diagnosed with Short Gut Syndrome, a condition that prevents proper absorption and digestion of nutrients and fluids from the food he consumes. After being released from the hospital, Nathaniel reached out to James Wood of James Wood Law to attain compensation for the medical expenses he incurred.

James built his case around securing compensation for Nathaniel's life-altering syndrome. To bolster his argument, James hired a forensic pathologist from Harvard University who specialized in gastrointestinal pathology. The expert's deposition helped establish the severity of the damage Nathaniel sustained. Moreover, James and his team enlisted a transplant surgeon from the University of West Virginia to opine about the limited and expensive treatment options for Short Gut Syndrome.

Over time, Nathaniel made a remarkable recovery, maintaining his physical fitness while adapting to his Short Gut Syndrome. This proved to be one of James's most significant challenges: how to educate a jury about his client’s internal injuries and suffering when he looks aesthetically fine. James built a trial strategy around using visual aids, including a corrugated plastic drain pipe as a physical example of Nathaniel’s intestinal tract. To visualize the internal damage, James reached out to DK Global for an animated recreation of the surgery and a medical presentation.

The animation of Nathaniel's initial surgery began with the surgeon’s incision from the breastbone to the cuboid bone, followed by a flyover of his body on the operating table. The animation then moved inside the incision to view the location of the dilated bowel and adhesions, which were subsequently lysed and removed from the outer intestines. Next, the incorrect placement of Seprafilm between the lower bowel, pelvis, and the bowel loops in the abdomen was recreated. The animation then provided a medical overview of the nasogastric intubation procedure Nathaniel should have received. The overview highlighted how the human body processes digested food, focusing on the small intestine's role. Finally, a descriptive showcase of nasogastric intubation illustrated the simple process of expelling built-up gas and liquid.

After the first mediation, the Defense offered to settle for $1,000,000, firmly adhering to that number as litigation continued. However, as the case proceeded to trial, the Defense suddenly increased the offer to $6,000,000. Refusing to settle for less than what Nathaniel deserved, James pushed on to a jury verdict. He presented the animations alongside testimony from the gastrointestinal pathologist and several other medical experts. The jury returned a verdict of over $23,000,000.

James Wood of James Wood Law is an accomplished trial lawyer specializing in medical malpractice for over 30 years. He is double board-certified and licensed to practice in Texas and New Mexico. During his career, he has tried more than 30 cases to a jury and settled over 100. He has received numerous awards for his legal expertise, including Top 100 Trial Lawyers in New Mexico (2011-2019), The National Trial Lawyers Association award, and Super Lawyers in Personal Injury Law (2014-2023).

"Animations give us a tremendous advantage. I can't imagine going in and building a case without significant visual aids."
James Wood - James Wood Law P.C.
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