Final caretakers blamed for inadequately treating woman's infection

Kelly Holleran Apr. 8, 2010, 11:57am

The husband of a deceased woman has filed suit against his wife's final caretakers, alleging they failed to adequately treat an infection she sustained after her left buttock was pinched by a toilet seat.

Joseph Lance claims his wife, Druetta Lance, was admitted to defendant St. Elizabeth's Hospital on Dec. 18, 2007, for a necrotizing soft tissue infection in the fatty tissues of her posterior upper left thigh and gluteal region. Upon her admittance to the hospital, Druetta Lance informed medical personnel she had pinched her left buttock in a toilet seat days prior. Since the incident, the area had grown red, tender and swollen, according to the complaint filed March 26 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

On Dec. 18, 2007, doctors at St. Elizabeth's drained Druetta Lance's infected area and deemed the surgery a success because of the lack of remaining infection, the suit states.

Medical personnel couldn't have been more wrong, the complaint says.

Joseph Lance claims things began to go awry on Dec. 21, 2007, when his wife complained of extreme fatigue and a feeling of weakness. On Dec. 22, 2007, blood cultures revealed that the level of E coli in Druetta Lance's body had grown and her wound exhibited recurring signs of necrotizing facitis and degeneration of the surrounding tissue, according to the complaint.

Attorneys Lloyd M. Cueto of Belleville and Christopher Cueto of Belleville will be representing Joseph Lance.

Despite such symptoms, doctors at St. Elizabeth's Hospital released Druetta Lance on Dec. 28, 2007, claiming all the puss had been removed and the remaining tissues appeared healthy. They ordered her to utilize a wound-vac in her infected area and to watch the area and clean the wound, the suit states.

From St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Druetta Lance was admitted directly to defendant Memorial Convalescent Center on Dec. 29, 2007, where personnel could not control her insulin-dependent diabetes. Druetta Lance's subsequent hypoglycemic events and her complaints of chest pain and breathing difficulties led to her transfer to defendant Memorial Hospital on Jan. 3, 2008, the complaint says.

Druetta Lance didn't stay at Memorial Hospital long before she was returned to Memorial Convalescent Center on Jan. 7, 2008, Joseph Lance claims.

By Jan. 21, 2008, Druetta Lance's wound still had not healed and she was transferred back to St. Elizabeth's Hospital, according to the complaint.

"At this time, Mrs. Lance complained to medical personnel at St. Elizabeth's of her pain and discomfort relating to the area of her wound," the suit states. "Medical records indicate heightened mental agitation and distress."

Still, doctors released Druetta Lance to her home on Jan. 28, 2008, only to have her return on Feb. 4, 2008, with complaints of breathing, coughing and wheezing problems, the complaint says. Blood cultures taken at the hospital on Feb. 8, 2008, showed a dramatic increase in methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) relating to Druetta Lance's wound, Joseph Lance claims.

On Feb. 15, 2008, doctors transferred Druetta Lance to defendant The Lincoln Home, which is a rehabilitation center intended to treat patients requiring medically complex care, according to the complaint.

After being transferred back and forth to the two medical facilities, Druetta Lance was finally admitted to Memorial Hospital on March 21, 2008, for elevated blood sugar levels and great breathing difficulties, the suit states.

On March 23, 2008, medical personnel told Druetta Lance's family that she would not be able to recover from her injuries and that they would provide her with the best care to keep her as comfortable as possible for the remainder of her life, the complaint says.

On March 27, 2008, Druetta Lance died from complications related to her breathing, blood sugar levels and infectious spread of the MRSA virus, her husband claims.

Joseph Lance alleges medical malpractice against Memorial Hospital, Memorial Convalescent Center and St. Elizabeth's Hospital; and negligence against the Lincoln Home.

In his two-count suit, Joseph Lance is seeking damages in excess of $100,000, plus attorneys' fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 10-L-146.

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