Saturday, June 11, 2011

The lawyer stuff...

Warning: This is going to be a long one! But please bear with me, it will be so informative!

I've debated whether I would blog about this subject for quite some time. And had things gone differently yesterday, I think it's safe to say I wouldn't be blogging about it at all. But they didn't, so I feel compelled to talk about what happened.

Some people have asked us over the course of things, and some have wondered but been afraid to ask, if we were going to sue over what happened to Everett. That isn't really a simple yes or no. When many of our family members found out he had died, they went straight to anger and asked immediately if we would sue. I couldn't even think about it. I was so much in shock, and devastated. I couldn't go there. But then time passed and the anger over what happened to our little boy settled in. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I couldn't stop thinking about everything that happened. About how my doctors blatantly ignored every and all warning signs he was giving off, for over four weeks. How they ignored me when I expressed extreme concern over what was happening in my body and asked to be delivered, several times, and was continually turned down.

I understand that through the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the push is to deliver after 37 weeks, however, when almost every single non-stress test wasn't passing, and I was having bad biophysical profile readings, and decrease in movements, an exception should have been made to deliver earlier. My son was obviously in distress. Hell, I was in distress every time I'd go into the doctor office, have bad testing, get sent to the hospital, or specialist(who really didn't listen to me) and get sent home. It was maddening! I had no control over what was happening inside my own body. I can't even begin to tell you how helpless, and hopeless that makes you feel.

The thing that sealed the deal with wanting to talk to a lawyer was that we were granted a meeting with all four physicians involved in our son's death, along with a "higher up" at the hospital and a person from risk management. This was last year. I came armed with research I had done on cord accidents, a list of very direct questions for the doctors and a little bit of hope that some compassion would be shown towards us over what happened. I also brought a framed picture of Everett, and Lilli holding Everett, showing them who was missing from this meeting. I needed to know that these physicians had learned something from what happened. Not to make them feel humbled in front of us, but to know they learned SOMETHING from our sons death that they could take with them for future patients. And I told them that. We needed to know they would not repeat the same mistake with other patients and have other babies die senselessly. We needed them to know how loosing your child is some of the worst pain you can imagine, and how it changes you for the rest of your life. And no matter how much time passes, you never forget your child or stop thinking about them. The reason we needed them to know this is because up to this point they hadn't shown us an ounce of compassion that they had learned any of this. Maybe it was that their lawyers had told them not to show compassion. Maybe they were taught this in medical school? All I can do is speculate and hope that somewhere deep inside they really are human and felt something over what happened.

What we really needed to hear from them in this meeting was that they were sorry about what happened. I'm not naive, I didn't expect them to admit any fault. Just a simple, "I'm so sorry this happened, and I'm so sorry for your loss". We didn't get that. One out of four physician's told us they were sorry, and that they would remember our son and take that into consideration with future patients. One. It would have made the WORLD of difference to us to hear them all say it, or at the very least an "I'm sorry". Show some form of compassion. I called out several of the doctors for not even coming to my room to see me, after I had Everett. They had taken part in caring for me for over 8 months and didn't even come to my room to look at me face to face to pay their condolences. There were many excuses given. Some even stated they were at the hospital, but thought it would be best to let us grieve privately. All I wanted them to do was sit on my bed next to me, hug me, tell me they were sorry he had died, and show some compassion. That's it. If I didn't want them there, I would have told them, and they could have left. Note to any physicians or future physicians reading this: It is so INCREDIBLY important to show your patients compassion. It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign you are human. That will take you further than you can imagine in your career.

My husband and I left this meeting thanking them for being willing to sit in front of us and listen. We got exactly what we expected we would from them. It still didn't make me feel a whole lot better, but at least they knew where we stood. Even though they didn't tell us to our faces, I'm hoping something about our story and our son penetrated through their skin, and their hearts.

It was after this meeting that Dave and I felt more certain than ever that we owed it to Everett to have everything investigated and looked into. We decided to have an attorney review my medical records. We picked a legitimate injury attorney, not an ambulance chaser, who holds a good reputation. They looked over my medical records in office with their team. After a couple of months it was determined that medical standard of care was NOT met in our case, and determined had they (doctors) delivered me sooner our son would have been here with us. However, it was too big of a risk to take on the case, not knowing that they would get a settlement. Too much grey area. This is how injury lawyers make their money. These cases are typically long, and expensive, so it was turned down. I was upset, my husband was upset. We wanted justice for Everett, and any future families and babies out there who could suffer the same poor "judgement calls".

We decided to let it go and move forward, after some grieving over that decision. That is until another physician looked over my medical records and pointed out that medical standard of care was absolutely not met, and with my testing I should have been immediately delivered at a certain point. We decided we would get a second opinion. Early this year we met with another law firm. The attorney was nice, and understanding. Unusual for an attorney! He had his reasons for being this way though. He agreed to give our case a second look. It was reviewed by someone in house who agreed it needed to be looked at by an expert. So off to the expert it went. After waiting many months for some answers we were told that the expert had come back with a decision. We were called to the office for a meeting. I felt sick, and I think my husband did too. I was a mess from the time I found out there was a decision until the time of our meeting. My dad asked me what my biggest fear was, and I responded with "I'm afraid that they will say no, and that will mean that Everett's life didn't mean anything to anyone but us". My husband and I felt like we knew what the outcome was going to be and that's why we felt so sick. We felt like they were going to say no.

10 months to the day Everett died, we went in for our meeting and the attorney nicely told us that the expert felt our case was defense-able. Meaning, there wasn't a clear cut "smoking gun" that pointed to Everett's death. Could the law office have over-ridden this decision and taken it on anyways? Yes. But that would have been a bad business decision on their part, and we understood that. They already spent a lot of money preparing all our documents, paying for the expert opinion, and getting nothing in return from us. I was devastated. I understood completely, but I was still devastated. He offered to give us the names of some other attorneys that we could contact to get another opinion. They may look at things differently, another expert might view my medical records differently. My husband and I agreed a while back, that whatever this decision was, we would leave it be with that. Good or bad. If it was a yes, we were ready whole-heartedly to fight for our son. I was so ready to fight for our son! If it was a no, we agreed we would find some peace with that decision, eventually, and move on with our lives. So, even though we have slowly, but surely been moving forward with our lives, now we really are, as this is no longer hanging over our heads.

One thing we did get for certain from the expert reviewing our medical records, is that we are even more committed than ever to get the message of Kate Cares out there to other families. This program could have given us additional answers and input into Everett's death we didn't get, and there are still many questions we will never have answered since we weren't given an option. You see, the hospital where I delivered does not participate in Kate Cares (and they won't). Kate Cares is so incredibly helpful to so many families going through a stillbirth. Most of the hospitals in our city do participate in it, and know the importance of having a program like this available to families who need it. By not having this program available at the hospital where I delivered, they are hurting the most vulnerable patients, the ones who are lost to stillbirth, and the families who are left to pick up the pieces.

Dave and I were already committed to this cause, as soon as we found out it existed last year. We are even more committed to raising funds for this important organization, and to continue to grow Run 4 Everett year after year. Thank you to those of you who have supported us, and Run 4 Everett through this entire past year. We are really looking forward to August!

~Steph

note: While I will not openly name the hospital where I delivered, I will say that where I attend my grief support group is NOT at or affiliated with the hospital where I delivered.

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