CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In May 2007, multiple sclerosis patient Clarence Leroy Dunnavant checked into Saint Francis Hospital with a fever brought on by a urinary tract infection.
After treating Dunnavant, doctors told him he could go home the next day, according to lawyer Michael J. Del Giudice, who is representing Dunnavant's family in a lawsuit against the hospital.
On May 22 -- less than 24 hours after his treatment for the UTI -- Dunnavant lay dead in a hospital bed.
A hole had developed in Dunnavant's gastrointestinal tract, causing air to seep into his abdomen. Doctors and nurses misinterpreted his symptoms, and he slowly suffocated.
"The bottom line: He needed a doctor," Del Giudice said. "Had they done things properly, Mr. Dunnavant would still be alive today."
Dunnavant's family sued the hospital and several doctors and nurses charged with his care after his death in 2007. Jurors heard opening statements Tuesday in Kanawha Circuit Judge James C. Stucky's courtroom.
Del Giudice said that Dunnavant's on-call doctor, Justin Bailey, did not take proper steps to determine that Dunnavant should have been diagnosed with a perforated bowel. Bailey, despite repeated phone conversations with family members and nurses throughout the evening, did not arrive at the hospital to personally examine Dunnavant until about three hours before his death, Del Giudice said.
Nurses at the hospital failed to relay Dunnavant's symptoms back to the doctors and apparently did not provide proper care when doctors did order instructions, according to Del Giudice. In one incident, a nurse who had allegedly been rude with the family had been trying to give Dunnavant a suppository before Dunnavant's son, Michael, angrily pointed out that she had been trying to deposit the pill into a bedsore on Dunnavant's backside.