Dr. Katherine Averill (an OB/GYN) performed a laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy (“LAVH”) on our client, Shannon, who was then 39 years old. The surgery was recommended because our client had suffered from menorrhagia, or heavy menstrual cycles. At the time of the surgery, Shannon was earning approximately $45,000 per year as a technical assistant at an aviation company operating at Dulles International Airport.
After surgery, the client suffered from post-operative symptoms including nausea, vomiting, tenesemus (the urge to have a bowel movement), hematochezia (bloody stool), and fever while at Winchester Medical Center. Three days after the LAVH surgery, Dr. Troy Glembot, a general and bariatric surgeon, was consulted in order to determine the cause of Shannon’s rectal bleeding. The surgeon performed an immediate exploratory laparotomy. During his exploratory laparotomy, Dr. Glembot discovered that Shannon’s doctor had incorporated the rectal wall into her vaginal cuff repair, and the presence of necrotic tissue was noted. An entire line of continuous sutures was holding the two tissues (vaginal tissue and rectal tissue) together.
Dr. Glembot removed the sutures and repaired at least two lacerations in the rectal tissue. Dr. Glembot then performed a sigmoid colostomy, which was necessary to divert the stool from the injured area of the rectum and allow healing to take place. Shannon had to wear the colostomy bag for approximately 75 days. During that time, she suffered complications associated with the colostomy, including retraction, infection and stenosis of the stoma. The colostomy was then reversed. Due to the fact that two operative incisions were made in the same place in her abdomen, the client also suffered from two abdominal hernias, which were repaired through the placement of mesh in her abdominal area. Shannon testified that the mesh was uncomfortable.
The trial team put on an expert, Dr. Edward Koch, an OB/GYN, who testified that Dr. Averill breached the standard of care by not properly identifying the tissues and the anatomy prior to her placement of sutures. Dr. Koch stated that the stitching of the vaginal cuff occurs during the vaginal portion of the procedure, while the surgeon is looking directly at the vaginal cuff, approximately 18 inches away, rather than through a laparoscope. The defendant produced two expert witnesses, both of whom said that stitches through the rectal wall in an LAVH are a risk of the procedure and that Dr. Averill had committed an “acceptable surgical error.” The medical bills and lost wages incurred by our client were approximately $125,000. The case was tried before Judge Prosser in Winchester, Virginia.
The Complaint requested $3 million. The jury returned a verdict of $3 million. The medical malpractice lawyers representing the patient, Shannon, were Barbara S. Williams and Roger T. Creager.