Confidential - Settlement, Client's Vocal Cords Paralyzed.

Stewart J. Eisenberg and Brian Hall settled a medical malpractice case in Montgomery County for a confidential amount. The client is a resident of Mont Clare, Pennsylvania, and underwent routine elective surgery. This is a case of surgical negligence. On May 18, 2001, doctors performed routine, elective surgery on Plaintiff. The goal of the surgery was to remove nearly all of the plaintiff's thyroid gland, a "subtotal thyroidectomy", due to her over-active thyroid.

By their own admission, however, and in direct violation of the applicable standard of care, doctors failed to identify and protect the two nerves that innervate the vocal cords. These two nerves are the right recurrent laryngeal nerve and the left recurrent laryngeal nerve. As a result of this negligence, the vocal cords are of plaintiff were paralyzed. Only 45 years old at the time, plaintiff no longer can speak or breathe without a plastic tube that fits in a surgically-created hole through her neck and into her trachea. Her tracheostomy tube is permanent.

The significant preceding events are as follows: In December, 2000, plaintiff was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism, also called Graves' Disease, may result in an enlarged thyroid gland, or goiter. The treatments for hyperthyroidism include oral medications and surgery. Having been advised of her options, and because she is intolerant of swallowing encapsulated medicines, plaintiff elected surgical intervention. Her doctor agreed to perform the surgery, and plaintiff obtained surgical clearance and the surgery was scheduled for May 18, 2001.

Our client continues to suffer profoundly from her injury. She is able to talk and breathe only with the assistance of a permanent tracheostomy tube and a Passy-Muir valve. Although she is able to vocalize, her voice quality has changed significantly since her surgery. Her voice quality is breathy and audibly "different" from normal speech. She also suffers every day from severe respiratory compromise. She no longer can go swimming or dancing, nor can she walk significant distances for exercise, because of the decreased air flow allowed by her tracheostomy tube. Build up of mucus regularly threatens her ability to breathe properly. She periodically requires surgical attention to the stoma, or opening, into her throat due to tissue break-down. Nearly every aspect of her everyday life, from bathing, to dressing, to walking, is affected by the hole in her throat necessitated by her paralyzed vocal cords.

Despite the permanent change to her voice that makes it sound "funny," despite her significantly compromised breathing, and despite her continuing embarrassment at being seen in public with her tracheostomy tube, our client struggles on valiantly. Although she lost her job sewing flags after the May 18, 2001 surgery, she has found employment as a checker at a local grocery store. To her great credit, she is attempting to get on with life as best she can. But she lives every day with the effects of defendants' negligence; she will live with them for the rest of her life.