Amputee Gets Second Chance in Court

DAVIE, Fla. (May 29, 2009-- When the sharp pain shooting through Lisa
Strong's back got worse, she thought it was another kidney stone and expected
the discomfort to pass. This time was different.

Through a series of mistakes, miscommunications and misdiagnoses,
she wound up having her arms and legs amputated. She sued the
doctors, who essentially blamed one another for what everyone
involved agrees were profound errors.

Everyone except the jury that ruled against Strong.

The verdict came in the face of such overwhelming evidence that in a rare
move, the judge tossed out the jury's decision and ordered a new trial.

As she awaits her second chance in court, Strong vividly remembers the day
she became ill.

On Sept. 20, 2003, she was at her job at a mall and could barely walk. She
went home, and hours later, the pain grew more intense. Her fever spiked at
106 degrees. She decided to go the ER.

"I told the nurse I had a kidney stone. I had a history of kidney stones," said
Lisa, now 45.

But the stone was never treated, setting off a downward spiral that triggered a
life-threatening infection and septic shock that starved her limbs of blood. Her
flesh turned black as a "line of death" crept up her arms and legs. It didn't stop
for a month.

"I figured if I exercised, moved around, I could get the circulation back. But it's
like frostbite," she said. "My fingers turned black. My toes and the bottoms of
my feet turned black. My fingers started to curl. It looked like I had held them in
a fire, like they were charred."

Studies of malpractice cases and autopsy reports have shown that certain
diseases are misdiagnosed much more than others. Here are five of the most
common. - Aortic dissection: The potentially life-threatening condition occurs
when there is bleeding into the aorta. Because symptoms vary, experts say it
may be overlooked initially in up to 40 percent of cases.

A month after she first went to the hospital, doctors amputated her legs below
the knees. Three days later, her arms below the elbows.

Two years later, Strong sued the doctors for negligence. Lawyers involved think
so many mistakes were made, the jury had a hard time fixing blame.

But Broward County Circuit Judge Charles M. Greene reversed the jury's
verdict and concluded the it was "contrary to the law and the manifest weight of
the evidence."

Such reversals are extraordinary. According to the National Center for State
Courts, judges set aside jury verdicts in only 78 of 18,306 civil trials nationwide
in 2005, the most recent year complete statistics are available. That's less than
one-half of 1 percent.

The two physicians — emergency room Dr. Laurentina Kocik and attending
physician Dr. Jason Strong, no relation to Lisa — have appealed the judge's
ruling. Written arguments are due June 1, though another trial could be at least
a year from now.

Kocik, a 30-year veteran of ER medicine, insists she told Dr. Strong over the
phone that Lisa Strong likely had a kidney stone. Dr. Strong works for a firm
contracted by Lisa Strong's insurance company to make medical decisions if
her personal doctor isn't available or chooses not to make the call.

But Kocik didn't write "kidney stone" on her diagnosis report. Asked during the
trial if she wished she had written it down, Kocik said: "You better believe I wish I
did ... a million times."

Dr. Strong remembers talking with Kocik and there was no a mention of a
kidney stone. He also was not told she was in septic shock, so he went with a
diagnosis of acute cholecystitis, a gallbladder condition unrelated to the

Dr. Strong handled everything by phone, which is common in such
Treatment by phone costs
woman her limbs
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