Thomas E. Heathman, a 52-year old man from Corvallis, who underwent toe surgery back in May 2014 filed an $805,000 lawsuit against Silverton Hospital in Marion County, Oregon for medical negligence. Heathman has been dealing with a persistent oozing wound that appeared on his foot after surgery, which ended up being a third-degree burn caused by the surgical lights.
After Heathman had underwent general anesthesia toe surgery at Silverton Hospital, an unusual wound appeared on the top of his foot. Heathman’s doctor prescribed antibiotic and antifungal treatments thinking it was a skin disease.
James Nelson from Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, who is Heathman’s medical malpractice lawyer said, “It was the equivalent of getting one hell of a sunburn.” Heathman’s wound is excruciatingly painful, dry, flaky and weeping. It has not healed for more than a year.
Heathman is the second surgical patient to file a lawsuit against Silverton Hospital, which said in January 2015 that up to 2,100 patients over a 14-month period may have been at risk to the ultraviolet radiation in its three operating rooms. According to a story by The Associated Press, officials at the hospital said that staff had replaced diffusers on the halogen lights in September 2013, but not the filters designed to screen out the UV radiation. Some halogen lights have a filter incorporated into the bulb’s glass, but some require separate filters, stated a report from the National Institutes of Health.
The hospital first became aware of patients’ skin burns in June 2014, but according to The Associated Press story, it wasn’t until November 2014 when a hospital investigation pinpointed the origin of the burns. Some news reports have stated that about 2 1/2 months after identifying the issue with the surgical lights, the hospital sent out a letter informing exposed patients of the problem, including Heathman. Five days after sending out the letter, the hospital said it had been contacted by about 10 patients who reported they had been burned during surgery.
Nelson said Heathman has been told that the wound is expected to remain for the rest of his life and that a skin graft wouldn’t work. “(Heathman) is now at a statistically heightened risk of developing cancer in the area of the burn and will have to apply topical medications and sterile dressings to the burn multiple times throughout the day for the remainder of his life,” the lawsuit states. In addition, since Heathman works as a licensed respiratory therapist (at a different hospital), he has an increased risk of infection due to his wound.
Heathman is seeking $5,282 in medical bills he’s received so far, $50,000 in estimated future medical expenses and up to $750,000 for his pain and suffering.
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