Stroke victim claims he was never told of treatment risk

By Marilyn Tennissen | Dec 22, 2009

After receiving an injection to relieve his neck pain, Jefferson County resident Rollie Parrish suffered a debilitating stroke. Now his wife is suing his doctor, alleging Rollie was never told of the risks associated with the treatment.

Valinda Parrish, individually and as representative of Rollie Parrish, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Ravi Halaswamy on Dec. 15 in Jefferson County District Court.

According to the original complaint, on Dec. 13, 2007, Rollie Parrish came to Christus Hospital St. Elizabeth for a neck injection prescribed by Dr. Halaswamy to treat symptomatic pain in his neck and left shoulder.

Prior to the procedure, the plaintiffs claim Dr. Halaswamy did not inform Parrish that brain injury was a possible complication.

According to the operative report of Dr. Halaswamy, Parrish was placed under fluoroscopy and injected at the C3-4 level with a mixture of Dexamethasone and Kenalog, a particulate steroid.

"Within a matter of seconds, Parrish's left upper extremity contracted and he began exhibiting symptoms of a stroke," the complaint states. "Dr. Halaswamy abandoned the injection, monitored Parrish in the hospital room for approximately one hour and then decided to intubate him."

Critical care consultants were then called in, and the decision was made by neurosurgeon Dr. Erwin Lo that an emergency ventriculostomy followed by a decompressive craniectomy was needed to counter the swelling in Parrish's brain, the suit states.

The massive stroke left Parrish with permanent brain damage and severe residual limitations, the plaintiffs claim.

Court documents state that on Dec. 27, 2007, St. Elizabeth hospital records noted Parrish with "terminal and irreversible" symptoms. By Jan. 7, 2008, Parrish was diagnosed as being in a "locked-in" state, a condition in which Parrish was aware of his surrounding, yet every voluntary muscle in his body was paralyzed.

After months of severe and intensive therapy, Parrish has been confined to a wheelchair and is now mentally and physically incapacitated, the suit states.

According to the complaint, after Parrish left the hospital, it was discovered in his medical chart that Dr. Halaswamy had performed a cervical transforaminal injection, one that is considered in the medical community to be dangerous due to its proximity to the nervous system.

In addition, neither Dr. Halaswamy's operative report nor the medical records of St. Elizabeth document that contrast dye was utilized by Dr. Halaswamy before inserting the needle. Without contrast dye, Dr. Halaswamy was not able to confirm proper needle placement, the suit claims.

The plaintiffs allege the medical standard of care applicable during the time of Parrish's injection was to administer contrast dye prior to injecting a needle into the cervical space in order to avoid injecting the vertebral arteries.

"Dr. Halaswamy's failure to use contrast dye in the procedure was below the standard of care for a practicing pain management physician, and his breach of the standard of care led to Parrish's suffering permanent and life-altering physical and mental injuries from which he will never recover," the complaint states.

The plaintiffs claim that had Rollie Parrish been properly informed of the complications and been made aware of the risks, it is likely that he would have declined to undergo the procedure.

Collin Cobb of Chambers, Templeton, Thomas & Brinkley in Beaumont and Barry Bennett of Eddins & Bennett Law Firm LLP in Beaumont are representing the plaintiffs.

The case has been assigned to Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th District Court.

Case No. B185-482

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