In response to my recent article on nurse staffing levels affecting stroke patient outcomes in the United Kingdom, a reader from across the pond responded with a bit of her own story.
A Misdiagnosis in the EU
“Mary” is currently an expatriate living in Scotland after spending much of her adult life in Spain. Before she left for the highlands, she suffered a stroke that may have been connected to her pre-existing Rheumatoid Arthritis. Mary said that it was just “one of those things and not predicable.”
Not predictable? Not so.
In fact a report of a 2012 Danish study in the WebMD archive indicates there is a link between RA and stroke. In sum, the report noted people with RA “appear to have an increased risk for developing the heart rhythm disorder, atrial fibrillation, which is strongly linked to stroke.”
Mary said she was “lucky” to recover because she received quick treatment (most likely with clot busting medication) combined with an extensive period of rehabilitation. She was given “long term intensive physiotherapy” and now has “very few side effects.”
Stroke Negligence in the UK
But the story continues as Mary’s sister who lives in the U.K. also suffered a stroke. However she thinks her sister’s stroke was entirely predictable and “her early symptoms were completely, ignored by her doctor, who, I suspect, just thought she was being overly dramatic.”
Overly dramatic? No so.
As it turns out, Mary’s sister had major heart problems which were diagnosed after the stroke which the doctor should have picked up sooner. And her condition deteriorated to the point where she needed open heart surgery.
Her sister “did try and sue her doctor for negligence. But here in the U.K. that kind of thing just isn’t taken seriously,” Mary said.
Why this matters
There are so many angles and issues attached to this story that it would take far too long to bring them together here. But the overarching issue is that there are many risk factors that doctors in the US should be aware of, especially the link between pre-existing health conditions like RA and A-fib to stroke.
In the final analysis, not spotting these links could result in a stroke not being prevented and/or not properly treated. Here in the United States, if your stroke could have been prevented, if your doctor failed to recognize the signs or symptoms of a stroke or an impending stroke, you can sue and hold that doctor responsible. In America, if a hospital didn’t treat you or a loved one quickly and more brain damage was suffered because of the delay, you can sue and hold that hospital responsible.
That being said, in the U.S. many stroke survivors and their loved ones may also wrongly believe that a stroke is “just one of those things” that could not be avoided. But the fact is that there are signs of an impending stroke that doctors miss and that the injuries from stroke are often worse because doctors and hospitals fail to act quickly enough.
If you or a loved one was sent home from a doctor’s office and then suffered a stroke or your stroke was not treated quickly, you may have grounds for a stroke negligence case.
The founders of StrokeLaw.com, Cory Rosenbaum & Robert Fader, are New York attorneys with decades of experience representing victims of medical malpractice including stroke victims and their loved ones. They are available for free consultations.
WebMD News Archive (March 8, 2012)