Jury awards $10.5 million to woman who had surgical sponge left in body

Jury awards $10.5 million to woman who had surgical sponge left in body

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - $10.5 million dollars is the award a jury decided for a Louisville woman in December, after a surgical sponge was left inside her, leading to the loss of her leg.

“Everything has changed, and I will never be able to go back to the way it was,” a tearful Carolyn Boerste told WAVE 3 News.

Carolyn Boerste lost her leg after complications from a surgical sponge being left inside her. Her attorneys say five different medical providers didn’t do their job and that’s why the jury sided with her.
Carolyn Boerste lost her leg after complications from a surgical sponge being left inside her. Her attorneys say five different medical providers didn’t do their job and that’s why the jury sided with her. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

That’s because the Louisville grandmother lost her leg after complications from a surgical sponge being left inside her. Her attorneys say five different medical providers didn’t do their job and that’s why the jury sided with her.

It started at University of Louisville Medical Center in 2011. Boerste was having bypass surgery when a doctor cut a vein and had to call another doctor in to help. Sponges were used to soak up the blood.

“It took a lot longer for the surgery than they had thought,” Boerste remembered.

Vascular surgeon Dr. Marvin Morris testified after cutting the vein, he created, “a bloody mess”. Surgical sponges soaked up the blood.
Vascular surgeon Dr. Marvin Morris testified after cutting the vein, he created, “a bloody mess”. Surgical sponges soaked up the blood. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

Vascular surgeon Dr. Marvin Morris testified after cutting the vein, he created, “a bloody mess”.

Surgical sponges soaked up the blood.

University Medical Center nurses who were close to their lunch time were supposed to do a sponge count, Boerste’s attorney James “Bo” Bolus said.

He told us, “Nurses failed to do a count thereafter and a sponge remained for 6 years inside this woman’s abdomen and eroding into her intestine.”

In court, Bolus asked Morris, “Does it make it their fault that the sponge was left inside of Carolyn?”

Morris answered, “Well, I think ultimately, we’re a team.”

When later asked if he should share the blame, the doctor said no.

Bolus said it gets worse. In 2015, as Boerste suffered multiple complications, another doctor working at, but not for Baptist Hospital (according to Bolus) saw the sponge on a scan and didn’t tell her. Her family doctor got the information 19 days later and also didn’t report it, according to Bolus.

Boerste said of it all, “It’s just aggravating and very frustrating.”

Boerste was having bypass surgery when a doctor cut a vein and had to call another doctor in to help. Sponges were used to soak up the blood.
Boerste was having bypass surgery when a doctor cut a vein and had to call another doctor in to help. Sponges were used to soak up the blood. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

In 2016, another CT scan at Baptist showed the 18 by 18 sponge and this time Boerste was told.

The jury also determined improper care at Franciscan Health Care led to her left leg being amputated. Boerste’s now cared for by her mother.

“Everything has changed, I used to take care of my grandkids, I used to be at home and I used to take my son back and forth to work,” Boerste said. “I’m not allowed to drive, I can’t do anything.”

“It’s unbelievable,” Bolus said. “This is a sweet woman who would not hurt a fly, and for them to leave a sponge in her and not tell her about it, and her end up getting her leg cut off and then not owning responsibility for that? It was unbelievable.”

The jury put 60 percent of the blame on University Medical Center. In a statement to WAVE 3 News, we are told the hospital is already working on an appeal.

“Safety is a top priority and in the past 8 years since this case began, we have continually enhanced our processes and continue to look for additional opportunities for improvement,” the hospital’s statement says.

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