A Calhoun County jury on Thursday heard from a Childersburg woman who filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a former Regional Medical Center emergency room doctor on the third day of testimony in the trial.
Angela Townsend’s 60-year-old husband, John, died March 18, 2014, the morning after he was admitted to the ER after complaining of a large, painful lump in his right groin.
According to Townsend and her attorneys, John was discharged from the hospital before Dr. Jesus Perez ordered the necessary tests needed to diagnose the pseudoaneurysm in his right groin.
Subsequently, Townsend and her attorneys argued, the pseudoaneurysm ruptured, causing John’s organs to shut down because he hadn’t been properly diagnosed and treated.
Townsend described her husband as kind and “a wonderful Christian.” His death, Townsend said, left her distraught and she doesn’t want another family to suffer like she did.
“I couldn’t handle that. I don’t want nobody to go through what I went through,” Townsend said through tears. “I’m doing it not just for me, but for anyone who goes to hospitals.”
The afternoon before John’s death, Townsend said, her husband began complaining of severe pain in his groin. She said she called RMC asking what to do, and they advised her to take him to the ER.
While she was at the hospital, Townsend said, she saw her husband undergo a CT scan and watched nurses give him antibiotics and pain medication. She left the hospital around 7 p.m., expecting that he would stay overnight. Townsend said she was called around 11 p.m. and asked to take her husband home.
“When I picked him up, I thought, ‘Well, he’ll be OK,’” Townsend said. “They sent him home. They know what they’re doing.
The next morning, Townsend said, her husband approached her, bleeding and worried that he would collapse. She said he sat on her bed before he passed out.
“He looked and said, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of blood,” Townsend said.
According to Townsend, medics took her husband back to the ER and he was given emergency surgery. Townsend said Dr. John Valente, who had operated on an aneurysm in her husband’s abdomen five weeks prior, operated on him again.
After he finished operating on John, Townsend said, Valente told her his chances of survival were slim.
“He was hooked up to so many machines,” Townsend said. “His head was the size of a basketball.”
During the time she was at RMC, Townsend said, no one discussed the results of her husband’s CT scan or his possible diagnoses with her. She said she didn’t once see Perez.
It wasn’t until after her husband’s death, Townsend said, that Valente told her about the ultrasound that could have saved him if it had been ordered.
“He said if it was him, he would have ordered it,” Townsend said.
Because she couldn’t afford an autopsy done on John’s body, Townsend said, Valente ordered one for her.
Jurors also heard video testimony from a former co-defendant in the case and live testimony from two expert witnesses.
Jurors watched video footage of Dr. Brian Greene, who was initially implicated in the lawsuit, testifying in a previous deposition. Townsend filed to release Greene from the lawsuit in June after he agreed to pay a $1 million settlement to her. Perez is the sole defendant in the case.
Greene said he was the general surgeon on duty when John Townsend was first admitted to the ER. After reading the results of a CT scan Townsend received, Greene said, he called Valente and told him about Townsend’s admission.
Greene said he called Valente because he was not a vascular surgeon, and wanted to consult with Valente. Greene also said Valente had asked other surgeons to contact him if one of his patients were brought to the ER.
Valente, who testified Wednesday, said he was not on duty at the time and could have not ordered Townsend’s release from the hospital. Valente also said Wednesday he was not in control of another doctor’s decisions while treating his patient.
Greene said he assessed Townsend, and determined he could have possibly had a seroma or hematoma. He said he didn’t believe Townsend had a pseudoaneurysm because he didn’t have a fever, his vitals were stable and the lump was not pulsing.
According to Greene, Valente never asked for the color Doppler ultrasound, and instead resolved to see Townsend the next morning.
However, Valente said Wednesday, he suggested a color Doppler ultrasound over the phone that night, and was not told it had already been suggested by another physician.
Expert witness Dr. David Wright, who was an ER physician around 2014, said he believed Perez met the appropriate standard while caring for John Townsend.
According to Wright, Perez transferred the care of Townsend to Greene and overriding Greene’s order to discharge Townsend would not have been appropriate.
Townsend’s attorneys argued that the pseudoaneurysm could have also been detected by a CT scan with contrast fluid administered through an IV, despite Townsend suffering from kidney failure. The attorneys said a previous doctor had used contrast fluid shortly beforehand.
Because Townsend’s kidneys were still able to produce urine, Wright said, it could have further damaged his kidneys.
Dr. Brian Myers, another expert witness, also said Perez met the appropriate standard of care. According to Myers, Perez didn’t need a definite diagnosis before realizing Townsend needed the help of a surgeon.
If an ultrasound was given, it could have delayed the care Townsend needed, Myers said.
Based on medical records, Myers said, Greene documented the decision to release Townsend but he believes the decision was made by Valente after watching the deposition.
Calhoun County Circuit Judge Debra Jones, who presides over the case, said testimony is set to continue this morning and the jury will likely deliberate during afternoon.