Paralyzed by Undertreated Ear Infection, Woman Claims
HONOLULU (CN) - A mother of four is a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic after her undertreated ear infection crept into her cranium and then her brain, says her "attorney in fact" in a complaint filed in the First Circuit Court of Hawaii.
The ordeal began the morning or May 24, 2010, when 26-year-old Anakela Kilakalua saw a doctor “with the new onset of two days of right ear pain with discharge and a right-sided headache,” the complaint says.
Although the doctor noted she had a history of middle ear infections, including “recurrent OM (otitis media) and MRSA,” he diagnosed her problem as “swimmer’s ear” (otitis externa) and an unrelated sinus infection and sent her home with antibiotic ear drops and oral antibiotics, without cleaning out “the discharge and debris in her ear canal,” suggesting or performing any diagnostic testing, or requesting any consultations, according to the complaint. (Emphasis in original)
Twelve days later, she saw another doctor for “a severe unilateral headache,” the complaint continues. The complaint states that this second doctor “failed to document with any reasonable precision the type of pain, the location of the pain, or the character of Ms. Kilakalua’s pain. Although Ms. Kilakalua’s headache had been present for more than 12 days prior to her Kaiser visit on June 5, 2010, and had been gradually progressing in severity since her first Kaiser encounter on May 24, 2010, the only information documented by defendant Kaiser physician Bagarinao in her cursory history was that the headache was ‘noted yesterday.’” (Emphasis in original)
According to the complaint, Ms. Kilakalua was diagnosed with a migraine and “defendant Kaiser physician Bagarinao alleges Ms. Kilakalua’s tympanic membranes were ‘intact’ and that there was ‘no discharge noted bilaterally.’ Based on her recurrent middle ear infections and the grossly abnormal findings seen at the time of Ms. Kilakalua’s subsequent admission to Kaiser several days later, it is highly unlikely that her right ear drum would have been ‘intact’ on June 5, 2010.” (Emphasis in original)
The next day, she returned and saw a third doctor, who “performed a poorly documented history and examination,” and gave the “simple diagnosis of ‘otitis externa.’" the complaint continues. The complaint goes on to say, “in her apparent extreme haste to discharge this patient home, defendant Kaiser physician Dizon failed to appreciate, recognize and understand that Ms. Kilakalua was in significant pain during her clinic visit, which was not consistent with defendant Kaiser physician Dizon's misguided and incorrect diagnosis. Defendant Kaiser physician Dizon failed to understand that such ongoing severe pain was a clinically significant finding of a disease process that needed to be carefully and appropriately evaluated, diagnosed and treated in a timely manner.”
Three hours after being sent home, the complaint continues, plaintiff’s boyfriend called back and spoke to a call center nurse because plaintiff was “crying because she was in so much pain.” (Emphasis in original)
However, the complaint states, the on-call doctor prescribed Percocet without performing an appropriate evaluation, and the “opiate merely masked the progression of her undiagnosed and untreated infection, which caused her devastating and permanent neurological injuries.”
The plaintiff was brought to the Kaiser Emergency room 45 hours later with a fever of 105, transverse and sigmoid sinus thrombosis, diffuse cerebral edema, and right tympanic membrane perforation, the complaint says.
“Kaiser’s repeated actions, inactions and failures led to and caused the progression to a life-threatening intracranial infection, central venous thrombosis, cerebral edema, increased intracranial pressure, partial brainstem herniation and resultant injury to Ms. Kilakalua’s cervical spinal cord and permanent quadriplegia,” according to the complaint.
In addition to special and general damages for medical malpractice, plaintiff, her boyfriend, and her four children are seeking punitive and exemplary damages, saying in the complaint, “defendant Kaiser, by and through financial incentives and cost-cutting policies and procedures, discourages physicians and staff from using diagnostic testing which would have allowed discovery and timely treatment of Ms. Kilakalua’s condition.” The complaint continues, “This conduct evidences a willful and/or wanton and/or conscious and/or reckless disregard for the safety and welfare of patients, including Ms. Kilakalua.”
Plaintiffs are represented by Woodruff K. Soldner of Leavitt, Yamane & Soldner in Honolulu.