Fractured leg untreated for three months had to be amputated, suit claims

Kelly Holleran Jun. 3, 2009, 10:13am

The wife of a Highland Health Care Center patient has filed suit against the center, two doctors, Mobilex USA and Covenant Care, alleging her husband was forced to undergo an amputation of his left fractured leg after it was left untreated for more than two months.

Myrna Ambuehl, attorney-in-fact for and wife of Roland Ambuehl, says Roland Ambuehl fell out of his bed and sustained a femoral fracture to his left leg on June 3, 2007.

According to the complaint filed May 29 in Madison County Circuit Court, Roland Ambuehl notified Highland employees of pain he had been experiencing in his left leg and knee after his fall.

On June 4, 2007, Highland hired Mobilex USA to take x-rays of Roland Ambuehl's pelvis and left knee, the suit states.

The x-rays were sent to two of Mobilex USA's staff doctors – defendants Donald Lanese and Elliot Wagner – who both concluded the x-rays to be negative for any fractures, the complaint says.

Over the course of the following two weeks, Myrna Ambuehl says Roland Ambuehl continued to complain about pain he was experiencing in his left knee, which had begun to swell and appear red.

Despite Roland Ambuehl's complaints, Highland forced him to exercise and to participate in physical therapy and other physical activities for two weeks immediately following his fall, according to the complaint.

On June 21, 2007, Highland again asked Mobilex to take x-rays of Roland Ambuehl's leg. This time, the x-rays were sent only to Lanese. But again, Lanese said Roland Ambuehl had no fractures, the suit states.

Still, Roland Ambuehl continued to experience constant pain and increased swelling around his left knee while still participating in the physical therapy, the complaint says.

"Mr. Ambuehl suffered a diminished appetite and rapid weight loss as a result of the constant pain he experienced in his left leg," the suit states. "Mr. Ambuehl's knee became so inflamed that he was no longer able to sustain his own body weight and he became unable to stand or walk."

In early August, Myrna Ambuehl says she requested that an orthopedic surgeon examine her husband's knee.

Instead of sending for an orthopedic surgeon, Highland again hired Mobilex to take x-rays and again sent them to Lanese. For the third time, Lanese concluded Roland Ambuehl had not fractured his leg, according to the complaint.

However, after the third Lanese report, Roland Ambuehl was examined by his treating physician, Dr. Scott Halvorson, who concluded that Roland Ambuehl's left femur was indeed fractured, the complaint says.

"Dr. Halvorson consulted with Dr. Timothy Penn, an orthopedic surgeon, who determined that the left leg was distorted with tenting of the skin over the femoral shaft and that by this point in time the fracture was displaced greatly," the suit states. "After being untreated for three months, the fracture caused parts of the femoral shaft to protrude into the soft tissues of the knee which caused callous formations and a breakdown of the surrounding skin tissue."

Penn concluded the risk of infection outweighed any chance of recovery, and Roland Ambuehl underwent a knee amputation on Aug. 15, 2007, at Anderson Hospital, Myrna Ambuehl says.

Before the amputation, Roland Ambuehl suffered ongoing pain, depression, a continued decrease in appetite and weight loss, the complaint says.

In the five-count suit, Myrna Ambuehl is seeking a judgment of more than $250,000, plus attorney's fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

She will be represented by Lloyd M. Cueto of the Law Office of Lloyd M. Cueto in Belleville and by Christopher Cueto of the Law Office of Christopher Cueto in Belleville.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-546.

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Organizations in this Story

Anderson Hospital
6800 State Route 162
Maryville, IL 62062

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