Suit blames Christus for woman's bed sore complications

Kelly Holleran Jun. 5, 2012, 4:55am

In a recently filed medical malpractice suit, a Jefferson County woman claims a bed sore caused her to lose much of the use of her right arm.

Ruth Boles filed a lawsuit May 23 in Jefferson County District Court against Christus Health Southeast Texas, doing business as Christus Hospital St. Elizabeth.

In her complaint, Boles alleges she went to St. Elizabeth in Beaumont on March 8, 2010, with complaints of respiratory distress. Because of her medical condition, employees at the hospital placed bilateral restraints on her for about 11 days, according to the complaint.

Due to her medical state, Boles was given daily assessments to determine whether she was developing decubitus ulcers. Despite these frequent checks, Boles claims she still developed two ulcers before leaving the hospital on March 22, 2010.

"Several Braden assessments prior to March 20, 2010, indicate that the nurses noted no skin breakdown of any kind," the suit states. "From March 20, 2010, to March 22, 2010, no Braden assessments, nursing notes, consultations, or any evaluations of any kind are present in the St. Elizabeth hospital chart at all which indicate that Ms. Boles's sacral area was ever examined."

Boles had been complaining of what she had felt was a skin breakdown in her sacral area, but the nursing staff at the hospital did not properly care for the infected skin, the complaint says. First, hospital employees applied a moisturizing cream to the skin, then they failed to monitor the area, Boles claims.

In spite of her worsening skin condition, Boles was released from the hospital. From there, she went home for six days, but her condition worsened, and she returned to Christus on March 28, 2010, where doctors found two second- or third-degree decubitus ulcers -- one on her right elbow and one on the sacral, the suit states.

After months of treatment, the sacral ulcer healed, but left an enormous scar on Boles's back, the complaint says. However, she claims she experienced even more significant problems with the ulcer on her right elbow before it healed.

"Dr. Smith believed the ulcer had caused permanent nerve damage to her wrist, and recommended a complicated surgical procedure to restore feeling to Ms. Boles's right hand," the suit states. "The surgery, partially successful, has left Ms. Boles with severe parathesias and permanent loss of strength in her right hand."

Had the employees at the hospital properly cared for Boles, she never would have suffered from the ulcers, the complaint says.

"Sending a primarily sedentary patient home with potential Stage 1 sores or with open wounds on their skin without any wound care instruction at all is a gross breach of the standard of care and completely unacceptable," the suit states. "Finally, it is commonly prescribed upon discharge in a patient at a high risk for decubitus ulcers to be given a pressure-relieving mattress for home use. This clearly was not done in Ms. Boles's case."

Because of the incident, Boles claims she has suffered physical and mental pain, anguish, discomfort and disfigurement.

She seeks a judgment within the jurisdictional limits of Jefferson County District Court, plus pre- and post-judgment interest, attorneys' fees, costs, punitive damages and other relief the court deems just.

Collin Cobb of Harris, Duesler and Hatfield in Beaumont will be representing her.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, has been assigned to the case.

Case No. E192-481

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