Old School Liability

July 21, 2008 by The Constant Complainer

I’d like to tell you a true story about a young boy.  This boy was at a Cub Scout event and was playing capture the flag.  He accidentally got tackled and hurt his right hip.  It was sore, but he kept playing with his friends.  He went home and told his parents that he hurt his leg.

The boy’s parents called his pediatrician the next morning.  The boy went in for an appointment.  The doctor checked him out, did some mobility tests and declared the injury to be a pulled muscle.  She indicated the boy would be fine in a few weeks.  No x-rays or prescriptions needed!  Excellent, the boy thought.  He had two more baseball games upcoming.

The first game was later that week.  At that game, the boy was the pitcher and played the game of his life – sore leg and all.  He pitched nearly the entire game, but unfortunately had to be removed due to his leg pain.  The boy tried to ice his leg that following week.  He took it easy and tried to help the muscle pull heal in time for the next game.

The next game day arrived and the boy was playing first base.  He was visibly still in pain, but he kept playing.  In the last inning, he was up to bat and hit a ground ball.  As he tried to run to first base, his hip was so sore that he couldn’t.  A parent in the stands, angry that the boy seemed to be walking to first base, yelled out “he can barely run, take him out” and several other parents (fans) agreed.  The boy’s father was sitting there and heard this.  He decided right then and there to take the boy to the emergency room.

At the hospital, an orthopedic surgeon determined that the boy had actually broken his hip playing capture the flag at Cub Scouts.  But he didn’t realize it.  And his pediatrician had misdiagnosed him because the tests she ran were inadequate.

That 13-year-old boy was me.

You know, 20 years later, not a day goes by when I don’t think about how my life was changed forever due to this injury and the doctor’s misdiagnosis.  My hip was not only broken, but playing baseball and two weeks of day-to-day activities had irreparably damaged my leg permanently.

I had to have two hip surgeries and one knee surgery.  I was on crutches for six months and had to use a cane for three months.  To this day I have back pain because my leg’s growth was stunted.  Now I walk off-balance, I have to wear special inserts in my shoes and I see a chiropractor regularly.

This happened 20 years ago.  I suspect had this happened in 2008, my parents probably could have sued the pediatrician, the Cub Scouts, the orthopedic surgeon or the kid that tackled me.  However, back in the 80’s, we just accepted the doctor’s mistake and moved on.  But like I said, not a day goes by when I don’t think about what happened.

The reason this is on my mind is because I recently wondered if that same pediatrician was still practicing medicine.  So I made a few calls.  Not only is she still practicing medicine, but she is still at that exact same office.  Irrationally thinking, of course I just want to call her and scream at her – as a thank you for 20 years of hip, knee and back pain.  In the same breath though, I feel the time is well overdue to let it go.  I’m sure her answer would be that she did the tests she thought she should have back then.  Or maybe I should have gone to the emergency room when I was first injured.  I didn’t think I needed to.  I was a young kid and thought I could walk it off.  To this day I wonder how I walked around and played baseball with a broken hip.  It seems unheard of, but it happened.

I guess what ticks me off is that I’m just another statistic in the area of medical malpractice.  But that doesn’t easy my pain any – that’s for sure.

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  1. Sugar says:

    My husband and I were just discussing liability over the weekend. 20 years ago, there were no frivolous law suits (not that your situation was frivolous), and if there were, they were thrown out. If your situation happened today, the Doctor would have been sued, the Cub Scout event would be re-evaluated, and you would have more money. You probably could also get emotional distress because of the ongoing physical limping problem.
    My husband was hit by a car while crossing the street to get on the school bus when he was 7. The driver got a ticket, while my husband has a permanent pin in his foot and ankle which still bother him today at times. No law suits, no lawyers, nothing. It’s just stunning at times to see the changes that have taken place now. Things aren’t simple as they were even 10 years ago. It’s now legally complicated.

  2. Walt Osroy says:

    This is a clear example of how things have changed over the years. Back then, doctors were not concerned about lawsuits, and only knew so much. You get attorneys involved looking for a quick large payday, and doctors have to do things to cover their behinds; which turns out to be a good thing for the people being treated, but it is bad because it helped increase the cost of health insurance. You can see how much technology and knowledge has changed over time. Back then; and this is a clear example of it, if you went to the Doctor complaining of something, and what they knew from school and experience it would be one thing. You went in, the Doctor heard your description, and figured what she knew from school and those other kids your age come in with the same problem, and just figured that is what it was, and sent you on your way. Based on your story, I am guessing the doctor is currently in her late 50’s to early 60’s; meaning she seen you when she was in her 30’s and 40’s? I am just assuming that she was still kind of new to the field, and maybe was still learning. Between then and now, I am sure that doctors have published new information that identify that certain symptoms may not just be a muscle strain. Now a days your doctor would have heard the description of the injury, have you do the mobility test, have you describe the pain, be prescribe a pain pill, or may have sent you out for x-rays. To see how much things have changed, in your example, your Doctor did not do anything compared to what happens today, which back then it may have been standard practice for that description of an injury. I was at my doctors for a stomach pain a few years ago. I was playing football and took a hit in the stomach, and the doctor believed that I may have strained a muscle. Before I left, the doctor prescribed a pill to me and told me that if I still feel pain in 5 -7 days, call him. The reason he did this was to show that he was trying to treat me for the injury. In the event that something happened to me from the time I called for a follow up, as in it turning in to a fatal injury, if he had a lawsuit brought against him, he could say that he was treating me for the strain, and it was my fault for not contacting him earlier to have it taken care of. After 5 days I still had pain, and went back to the doctor. He then said we eliminated a muscle strain, I think it is something worse, and we are now 5 days later from when it happened, you will need some test done. I was then sent out for a CAT scan, and MRI, and some other tests. After everything was done, it turns out I had a deep muscle bruise. Today a doctor will prescribe you something, no matter what you have when you visit, just to say they are trying to treat you for what ever condition you have.

    You can hold the grudge against your doctor, and I am sure I would do the same, but look at how things have changed. Back then it was an accepted practice what your doctor did, and you mentioned going 2 weeks between the accident and visit to the emergency room; why did your parents and you wait that long for a follow up? I am not trying to say you are at fault, but things change over time, and what was done years ago as a standard practice, is now considered wrong because doctor’s knowledge and technology has changed. If you have kids, be glad that in today’s world new things exist, so they would not have to go through what you did.

  3. Tallelf says:

    Just gotta say that that sucks… but on the other side of it… did you ever pick on a kid? Did you ever make fun of someone because of what they wore? Perhaps how they styled their hair(Flock of seagulls?) Now a days it is a punishable offense where students are sent home, then it was almost accepted and a coming of age. Not to compare your hip to calling someone puddin pants, but things change. Was it malpractice? Misdiagonsis based on other factors? Did it have time enough to heal enough to throw her off?

    Of course I have something relevant to vent about here. It was in 1993, and I was in 8th grade. I was at a wrestling tournament and kicking butt. i was in the finals with 13 seconds left, and was smashign this kid 13 to 0. I tripped and dislocated my elbow. The ref was puking in the trash can and the opponent was not far off. I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance directly from the event. my parents were in a seperate vehicle. When I arrived there, I was asked how it happened, and I told them. The nurse then asked, are you sure that your parents didn’t do this? NOW COME ON. I was brought in by a blasted ambulance, and wearing a wrestling singlet. For those of you who have ever worn one, you know they are not the easiest to put on. (Ladies it is just like putting on your favorite undersized swimsuit after getting out of the shower and it is still a bit damp). Not something that I could put on to cover tracks for my NON abusive parents. I was taken back that they would even consider this thought. however I understand why they did that.

  4. […] a year ago, I posted a column called “Old School Liability.”  That was probably before most of you started reading this blog.  Feel free to go back […]

  5. Kelly says:

    Wow! That totally sucks! IS there a statute of limitations on malpractice? You should sue! Sounds like her mistake not only caused you pain, but has cost you a lot of money!

    On the upside, House has made leg injuries sexy!

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