Abington Memorial Hospital and one of its neurologists have been hit with a wrongful
death claim by the widower of a 37-year-old mother of two who died as an alleged result of malpractice.
Keith Wood filed suit May 14 on behalf of his deceased wife, Nancy Wood, who was taken off of life support in the intensive care unit of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in early October 2011, after suffering multiple strokes and seizures throughout a three-day stay.
The plaintiff claims his late wife would still be alive today if not for the mistakes made by Abington Memorial and neurologist David C. Weisman, who had treated Nancy Wood the month before her death for severe head pain.
According to the complaint, Nancy Wood, who was planning to return to her job as an elementary school teacher after her two young children got older, first went to Abington’s emergency room shortly after midnight on Sept. 20, 2011, with complaints of a severe headache.
The treating physician guessed the pain might have been caused by a subarachnoid hemorrhage, but the doctor nevertheless discharged the woman early that morning, the suit states.
During the course of the next five days, Nancy Wood visited the emergency room a total of four times, according to the lawsuit.
On Sept. 25, after again presenting to the hospital, Wood was placed under the care of Weisman, who administered a drug called dihydroergotamine, or DHE, to treat the woman’s headaches.
The problem, however, was that Weisman didn’t co-administer Benadryl, part of the standard of care in such situations, and he also failed in that he gave Wood DHE despite the fact that it is not supposed to be administered in patients who are already on a CYP3A4 inhibitor, an antidepressant and antianxiety drug such as Zoloft and Abilify.
Nancy Wood, the lawsuit states, was on both due to her bipolar disorder.
Soon after Nancy Wood received the dose of DHE, she suffered one seizure, followed by another a short time later, suit states.
At that time, the patient should have been given a thorough work-up, including an MRI, but Weisman instead discharged Wood from the hospital on Sept. 26, 2011, at 11 in the morning.
“Dr. Weisman authorized Mrs. Wood’s hospital discharge in spite of the fact that she had confusion, had episodes of seeing flashing lights, and had had two seizures within the previous 24 hours,” the suit states.
In his discharge note, Weisman attributed the seizures to the DHE, although seizures are not a known side effect of that drug, the lawsuit claims.
“Dr. Weisman should have recognized that the seizures were caused by a severe vasoconstriction/vasospasm, which is a recognized risk of administering DHE along with Zoloft,” the complaint reads.
The suit claims that an MRI would have shown that Nancy Wood was suffering from severe vasoconstriction and vasospasm, and that if the test was given at this point, the patient could have been treated.
Instead, the complaint says, Nancy Wood was sent home.
Weisman further erred when he discharged Nancy Wood on the drug Imitrex, which also shouldn’t be administered along with DHE.
On Sept. 28, Nancy Wood again went to the emergency room with complaints of severe head pain, and again she was sent home by Weisman, this time with a prescription for Benadryl and pain killers, the suit states.
At the same time, however, Weisman also discharged Nancy Wood with anti-seizure medication, which indicated the physician was concerned the woman would have another seizure, “even though he wrongly believed that her prior seizures were an innocuous reaction to DHE,” the suit reads.
On Oct. 1, 2011, after waking up unable to speak clearly, Nancy Wood visited her primary care physician, due to her frustration with Weisman, who instructed Wood’s husband to take Wood to Doylestown Hospital.
At Doylestown, Nancy Wood finally underwent an MRI, which showed a “bilateral cerebral and left parietal and temporal lobe infarct,” the suit states.
She was then flown by helicopter to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where further brain imaging showed areas of bleeding and stroke.
Doctors there determined the strokes were likely triggered by the administration of the drug DHE and other medicines, such as Imitrex and Abilify.
Although doctors at HUP attempted to “dampen the effect of the vasoconstriction,” the treatment came too late, and Wood suffered more strokes and seizures that eventually left her brain dead, the complaint says.
She was taken off of life support on Oct. 7, 2011, after which her organs were donated.
“The negligence of Dr. Weisman and Abington caused Mrs. Wood enormous physical and emotional pain and suffering and caused a significant delay in her receiving the proper diagnosis and treatment,” the suit reads. “Mrs. Wood would be alive today had she been timely diagnosed with a cerebral vasoconstriction disorder and had she received timely and appropriate treatment.”
The suit accuses the defendants of violating the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.
The complaint also contains counts of negligence and corporate negligence.
Wood’s husband seeks unspecified damages.
The plaintiff is being represented by attorneys Aaron J. Freiwald and Katherine M. Robinson, of the firm Layser & Freiwald.
The federal case number is 2:13-cv-02644-PD.