Aiken Regional Medical Centers must pay a triple amputee nearly $14 million in damages, in a medical malpractice case, according to a verdict reached by an Aiken County jury Tuesday.
Seletha Gartrell, 54, of Aiken, filed suit after she lost both her legs above the knee, her left arm below the elbow and fingers from her right hand, according to court records.
According to the original complaint, "the amputations were caused by the negligent care" of doctors and nurses who did not recognize Gartrell had Sepsis, a dangerous illness that can cause death if not treated properly and promptly.
As the case progressed, however, the focus narrowed to the administration of certain medicines over a two-day period after Gartrell's admission, and when doctors were not present, an attorney for Gartrell said.
The jury found that Aiken Regional Medical Centers must pay Gartrell $10 million in economic damages and $3.75 million in non-economic damages, court records state.
The verdict form says the jury found "clear and convincing evidence that the Defendant, Aiken Regional Medical Centers, was reckless, willful or wanton in their conduct."
Aiken Regional Medical Centers released a statement following the verdict that said, "The patient entered our facility with two life-threatening conditions, one of which caused her to have cardiac arrest. We strongly disagree with the jury's decision. Our nursing staff and physicians gave her the best of care that saved her life."
Gartrell was represented at trial by Johnny Felder and Chad McGowan, court records state.
“Fortunately, the jury was able to see the overwhelming evidence of nursing conduct that fell below the standard of care," Felder said in statement. "The jury’s verdict is not only reasonable, considering the nature and extent of harm in this case, the verdict is actually somewhat conservative. Our client was left as a triple amputee as a result of the nurses’ conduct at Aiken Regional Medical Centers. Mrs. Gartrell is a wonderful lady, who prior to these events was working full time and had a very active lifestyle. The injuries caused at the hospital have devastated Mrs. Gartrell and her family. Hopefully this verdict will force the hospital to take a close look at how certain things are done and monitored in their Emergency Room and ICU units.”
The original complaint stated that Gartrell was admitted to Aiken Regional Medical Centers at 9:34 a.m. on Dec. 6, 2012 with severe Sepsis, which progressed to Septic Shock.
When Gartrell was admitted to the hospital, she had very rapid respiratory rate at 28, a high heart rate of 155, a low oxygen level at 89 percent and a high temperature of 103.1 degrees Fahrenheit, the complaint states.
Gartrell, the suit said, was not given the proper antibiotics until 14 hours after admission, 9 hours after the first order and 3.5 hours after the second order. The complaint also states that Gartrell was not seen by a physician until 5 hours after arriving at the ER.
"At (12:07 a.m. on Dec. 7), Mrs. Gartrell arrested. She had a Code Blue, and her pulse was restored. From that point, her extremities started to show mottling and other sings of ischemia. Eventually, Mrs. Gartrell was transferred to MUSC, where she underwent a triple amputation," the complaint states.
The complaint said Gartrell "did suffer severe, permanent and catastrophic damage as a direct and proximate result of the negligence" of the hospital.