Man's bed sores dominate Christus med-mal trial

David Yates Jul. 28, 2010, 1:15pm

For the past two days, a Jefferson County jury has listened to numerous medical experts testify on whether Ronald Lee Lewis' bed sores were due to obesity and skin friction, or from failing to have his position changed frequently while he was a patient at Christus Hospital St. Elizabeth.

Last May, the Southeast Texas Record reported on litigation brought by Lewis, a Silsbee resident who sued Christus alleging he developed pressure ulcers, an infection and pneumonia after his stay at the hospital.

On Monday, July 26 the case went to trial in Judge Bob Wortham's 58th District Court.

Admitted with broken ribs and other critical injuries, Lewis was a patient at Christus for continuing medical care from Feb. 14, 2007, to March 24, 2007, court records and testimony show.

During his treatment, Lewis claims he developed pressure ulcers on his buttocks, ventilator-associated pneumonia and suffered from a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection.

Lewis' attorney, Brett Thomas, argues the pressure ulcers were due to the hospital's failure to implement an adequate prevention program. Thomas said Christus nurses failed to turn Lewis every two hours.

However, Christus contends Lewis suffered from several pre-existing chronic health conditions which compounded his recovery.

On July 28, Christus nurse Rhoda Fountain, who treated and cared for Lewis, testified that his sores were actually shears caused from skin friction on the buttock and not from a lack of turning.

Evidence shows that at the time he was admitted, Lewis was severally obese, suffered from hypertension and back problems and had a stent in his heart.

Christus' medical expert, Dr. Hugh Poindexter, testified on Wednesday that Lewis' chronic health problems more than likely caused the complications during his hospitalization, saying he was in critical condition for several days after admittance.

Dr. Poindexter also testified that Lewis suffered from severe diarrhea during his hospitalization and the fact that the sores on his buttock never became infected is evidence that he was well cared for and treated.

Lewis is asking jurors to award him damages for medical expenses, past and future physical pain, suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment and disfigurement, fear of a future disease and costs of medical monitoring and prevention.

Thomas is attorney for the Thomas, Roebuck and Adams law firm in Beaumont.

Christus is represented by attorney Curry Cooksey of the Beaumont law firm Orgain Bell & Tucker.

Jefferson County District Court case number: A183-940.

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