$5.5M for Torn Vein Grafts Causing Heart Patient’s Death
A Maryland jury awarded $5.5 million to the family of a woman who died after open heart surgery when wires were removed from her chest.
Velda Faye Richardson underwent cardiac bypass surgery on Feb. 1, 2011. Pacing wires were put on her chest just before surgery. The wires are typically put in place in case doctors need to regulate the patient’s heart rate during recovery, and are removed either by clipping them or pulling them off.
Richardson’s recovery went smoothly for five days and she was scheduled to be released the following week, according to her attorneys. But on day six, after a nurse pulled the pacing wires from her chest, Richardson became short of breath, started bleeding profusely from where the wires were removed, and eventually died.
According to the nurse who pulled out the wires, before losing consciousness, Richardson said, “I think I’m dying.”
Her family sued the surgeon, who had also filled out her death certificate saying that Richardson died because the wires were pulled off and caused bleeding from newly-placed vein grafts. Doctors performed emergency surgery but were unable to fix the damage that prevented her heart from receiving blood.
The surgeon could not remember where the wires were placed or how many were used.
The family’s attorney, Rodney M. Gaston, argued that the wires were put in the wrong place.
“If the wires had been placed correctly, this would not have happened,” Gaston said. “The tragic reality is that the placing wires were not mandatory and could have been left in Ms. Richardson’s chest. But the jury rightfully held the surgeon accountable for the improper placement of the pacing wires.”