Trial began Sept. 18 in Madison County Circuit Judge Andreas Matoesian’s courtroom for a patient’s lawsuit alleging a physician put off an emergency lumbar surgery for too long.

Plaintiff Rita Ford is represented at trial by Brad Lakin and Robert Schmieder of SL Chapman LLC in St. Louis.

Defendants Dr. Theodore Vander Velde and Midwest Radiological Associates are represented by Jeffrey Glass and Jason Winslow of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in Belleville.

Ford filed her original complaint May 8, 2015, alleging she woke up at home on Oct. 25, 2013, with “incapacitating low back pain and discomfort.” She claims she couldn’t walk due to weakness and pain.

She alleges “numbness and a tingling sensation” stretched from her feet to her lower back.

After an ambulance took her to Alton Memorial Hospital, family members asked emergency room personnel to perform a lumbar MRI, but they were allegedly told that her own doctor would have to order it, the suit states.

Three days later, Ford claims she met with Dr. Guy Aton at his practice and was still experiencing the same symptoms.

Aton allegedly prescribed pain medication but ordered no neurosurgical consultation. He did, however, order an MRI, the lawsuit states.

The next day, Ford’s MRI was taken and Vander Velde allegedly read and interpreted the scan. In his report, “he did not include any reference to any signs or indications of possible infectious processes then ongoing and did not recommend an immediate neurosurgical consult or immediate follow-up.”

Ford’s MRI was forwarded back to Aton by Vander Velde. Ford alleges her family contacted Aton to inform him that her pain medication was not working. He allegedly prescribed her higher dosages but still didn’t order a consult, the complaint states.

Then on Nov. 25, Ford claims she went to a neurosurgeon at St. Luke’s Hospital, who reviewed the MRI. The next day, the neurosurgeon allegedly performed emergency lumbar surgery to repair what was learned to be an epidural abscess.

Ford recovered for a week at St. Luke’s, then went through two rehabilitation facilities until she was cleared for released on Feb. 19, 2014, the suit states.

She alleges Vander Velde failed to appreciate the clear signs and indications of a possible infectious, hemorrhagic or neoplastic process; failed to properly and appropriately interpret the lumbar MRI scan; failed to recommend an immediate neurosurgical consult or follow-up; and failed to communicate what should have been “critical imaging findings” to the ordering physician. 

Ford filed a first amended complaint Sept. 1, 2016.

The defendants answered the amended complaint on the first day of trial. 

They deny liability and argue that the plaintiff’s alleged injuries were “not directly or proximately caused by act or omissions by these Defendants, but rather were the sole proximate result of an independent, intervening cause of which these Defendants had no control and which were not known or reasonably foreseeable by these Defendants.”

Aton and BJC Medical Group of Illinois were also named defendants in the original lawsuit.

They were dismissed from the suit June 28, 2016.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-582

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