Laura Robinson had severe sudden onset upper back pain, so she went to the hospital. The hospital ran a test and sent her home. A week later, she was back, but again, they sent her home. She died the next day.
Robinson’s children, Leea Robinson of Middletown and Kyi Robinson of Angwin, are now suing the hospitals she went to along with the doctors and radiologist she saw, alleging medical negligence.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Napa County Superior Court earlier this month, names Adventist Health Clearlake and Adventist Health St. Helena as defendants in addition to doctors Evan Chisum, David Racker and Benjamin Stone.
Jill Kinney, executive director of marketing and communications for Adventist Health, did not comment on the case Friday.
According to the lawsuit, 59-year-old Laura Robinson of Middletown visited Adventist Health Clearlake with a complaint of back pain on Dec. 4, 2016. The presiding emergency department physician, Dr. Chisum, was concerned that Robinson’s symptoms could be related to aortic dissection, or tear, and ordered a CT scan, according to the suit. The radiologist, Dr. Racker, administered the wrong test, but signs of an aortic dissection were still present on the image, the suit alleges.
Racker dismissed the “clear indications” of an aortic tear as a shadow on the image and, when Chisum reviewed the results, Robinson was sent home, according to the suit.
Robinson was back in the emergency department, this time in St. Helena, on Dec. 11, but she was again sent home. Dr. Stone, the physician who saw her, based his diagnosis on information gathered from her visit the week before, according to the suit. No additional imaging was ordered.
At 6:55 p.m. on Dec. 12, Robinson’s aorta ruptured, killing her instantly.
“What’s so sad ... is that the emergency room doctor had done an OK job following the protocol,” the family’s attorney, Nathaniel M. Leeds of Brent & Fiol LLP in San Rafael, said Thursday. “The radiologist somehow decided to run the wrong contrast scan.”
Even with the wrong scan, though, the radiologist still should have caught that something was off with Robinson’s aorta, Leeds said.
“The radiologist should have noticed there was a dissection,” he said. Robinson should have been put on blood pressure medication and if she had been, he said, she would probably still be alive.
The family is suing the hospitals and the doctors for economic and non-economic damages and the costs of suit in addition to demanding a jury trial.
“I don’t think people should die from these,” Leeds said, noting that he’s had three aortic dissection cases in less than three years. The reason, he said, is either miscommunication or very bad medical care.
“People should not die from aortic dissections in the modern era,” he said. “It’s unacceptable.”
A case management conference is scheduled for Aug. 14.