Madison - St. Clair Record

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Suit alleges woman died from malfunctioning brain shunt

By John Severance | May 26, 2017

EDWARDSVILLE — The estate of an Illinois woman filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death suit against area hospitals alleging she died from a defective brain shunt.

Franklin Fair, individually and as the administrator of the estate of Sadie M. Fair, filed the suit on April 25 in the Madison County Circuit Court aginst SSM Health Business, SSM Healthcare Corporation, SSM Health Care St. Louis and doctor Stephen K. Burger. HSHS St. Joseph Hospital-Breese and doctors Jacob Marshall, Deborah Malone, Edward Feutz, Brian Bolinger and Michael Castellano were named respondents in discovery on court documents.

Sadie Fair died on Aug. 16 of last year in a St. Louis hospital, and the complaint claims doctors failed to diagnose her properly.

At the age of one in 1979, Sadie developed meningitis or encephalitis from an unknown cause and was treated at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. When she was three years old, doctors inserted a shunt to drain cerebrospinal fluid from her brain.

The complaint states that on May 10, 2015, Sadie went to SSM Good Samaritan emergency department, complaining of a headache, nausea, vomiting and neck pain. A CT scan and X-rays confirmed a 4.5 millimeter separation of the shunt tubing. The scan also revealed enlarged lateral ventricles and dilated brain ventricles.

The call was made to transfer Sadie to another hospital, but in the meantime, she suffered a seizure and became unresponsive. After getting stabilized, she was transferred to SSM Health Care St. Louis where she was diagnosed as having a shunt malfunction. 

The complaint goes on to state that attending surgeons Richard Bucholz and Paul Birinyi stated she did not have a shunt malfunction but that the shunt appeared to have been broken on a chronic basis. She had an MRI of the brain and the "results confirmed periventricular flair hyperintensity, consistent with hydrocephalus and transependrymal cerebrospinal fluid flow,’’ the suit states.

The following day, she was discharged from the St. Louis hospital.

Three months later, Sadie went to the emergency department at Salem Township Hospital where she suffered cardiopulmonary arrest, and she was then airlifted to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. On Aug. 16, Sadie's condition deteriorated and an exam indicated she had an absence of brain stem function and she was declared clinically dead.

The complaint said her death was caused by a malfunctioning ventriculoperitoneal shunt.

The suit alleges doctors failed to diagnose the malfunctioning brain shunt and the life-threatening nature of her developing hydrocephalus, among other procedural failures.

The six-count complaint was filed by the Dorris Law Firm of Bloomington.

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Organizations in this Story

Madison County Circuit Clerk Madison County Circuit Court SSM Health