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Brownsville woman files lawsuit because legs partially amputated

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Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009
 

A Fayette County woman who underwent partial amputations because she sat with her legs folded under her for as long as 12 hours while passed out drunk claims a doctor overlooked an acute medical condition because she was intoxicated.

Shanna Hiles, 20, of 101 Water St., Brownsville, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit Tuesday in Fayette County against Uniontown Hospital, Fayette Regional Health System and an emergency room physician, Dr. Mark L. Fennema.

According to the lawsuit filed by Pittsburgh attorney Monte J. Rabner, Hiles "consumed an excess of alcohol" while celebrating her 20th birthday at a neighbor's house May 23.

Hiles lost consciousness while "seated on the floor with her legs tucked under her," according to the lawsuit. She remained in that position for up to 12 hours before a relative discovered her the following day.

Disoriented and complaining of pain in her lower legs, Hiles was taken by ambulance to Uniontown Hospital's emergency room, arriving at 2:30 p.m.

Rabner alleges although Hiles had signs of a reversible condition known as "acute compartment syndrome," Fennema waited nearly six hours before arranging her transfer to UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh.

The 8:15 p.m. transfer began by ambulance, but a medical helicopter was dispatched while Hiles was enroute because of her "deteriorating health," according to the lawsuit.

Within approximately two hours of her arrival at UPMC, Hiles was diagnosed with acute compartment syndrome and had bilateral knee amputations. Compartment syndrome occurs when blood flow is impaired, damaging nerves and muscle, according to the lawsuit. It is reversible through surgery, if diagnosed in time.

The lawsuit alleges Fennema "discounted" indicators of acute compartment syndrome because Hiles was intoxicated. According to the lawsuit, Hiles was diagnosed with acute alcohol toxicity upon her arrival at Uniontown Hospital.

The hospital is named in the lawsuit for alleged failure to properly supervise Hiles' treatment. Fayette Regional Health Care System is the hospital's parent corporation.

Fennema could not be reached for comment yesterday at the hospital. Karen Dei Cas, hospital spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Hiles is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

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