A 76 year old female underwent elective mitral valve surgery at Evanston Hospital on August 22, 2007. During the procedure, the bypass equipment failed to return a flow of oxygenated blood. The hand crank attempted to be used was ineffective which caused an arrest and led to brain damage followed by death on September 8, 2007. The decedent was survived by her husband and two adult children. Recently, the family’s lawyers, Joseph A. Power and Joseph W. Balesteri of Power Rogers, settled the medical malpractice and product liability case for $2.8 million dollars.
On August 22, 2007, Ms. W. underwent elective mitral valve surgery at Evanston Hospital. The bypass pump utilized for returning oxygenated blood to Ms. W. while her valve was repaired failed. As a result, Ms. W. received low oxygenated blood and later no oxygenated blood for fourteen minutes. The perfusionist, who was an employee of Evanston Hospital, Mr. Brown, testified that there was a machine failure during the case.
Defendant, Medtronic, Inc., was the manufacturer of the bypass machine and its accessory equipment, including the hand crank, which were relevant to this case. When the pumping apparatus failed, Mr. Brown looked for a cause, found none and then left Ms. W. and the machine to locate a hand crank to operate forward flow manually. Upon returning to the bedside, the hand crank would not seat on the external drive to permit Ms. W. to receive blood flow.
Mr. Brown felt the design of the hand crank was not appropriate for use on the external drive while he attempted to seat the hand crank. Mr. Brown had never attempted hand crank use of an external drive in his career, nor had he been trained or drilled in such an application. Mr. Brown was unaware that two different Medtronic hand crank alignments were required depending upon the choice of what drives bypass forward blood flow – the external drive of the bypass console.
The hand crank retrieved by Mr. Brown was a console hand crank which did not properly fit on the external drive. During the critical time for Ms. W., Mr. Brown attempted to fit the hand crank for the console on the external drive. In order to switch from the console mounted hand crank to a pole mount, Mr. Brown testified it would have taken him five to ten minutes. Eventually, while Ms. W. was experiencing brain damage due to anoxia, Mr. Brown left the room to bring in another machine as the surgery was finished.
The medical negligence aspect of the case related to the failure of the perfusionist to ensure the proper hand crank was available immediately for use prior to the case (as power failure and other system failures result in the immediate need of hand cranks from time to time to ensure adequate blood flow). Relative to the product case, the manufacturer of the device did not make it clear, through the sale of the equipment and its service contract with Evanston Hospital, that there should be an additional hand crank for the external drive available for the cases occurring at Evanston Hospital.
There was a lack of training and information relative to the instructions for use conveyed to the perfusionist at Evanston Hospital by Medtronic in this regard. Ultimately, the hand crank used by Mr. Brown was ineffective which caused an arrest and led to brain damage followed by Ms. W’s death on September 8, 2007.