Heart surgery patient awarded $10.5M after Louisville hospital leaves sponge in her

A woman who had her leg amputated after healthcare workers from University of Louisville (Ky.) Hospital left a sponge in her was awarded $10.5 million, according to a Louisville Courier Journal report.

A Jefferson circuit court jury awarded the 54-year-old woman, Carolyn Boerste, $1 million in punitive damages and about $9.5 million for past medical expenses, future expenses and pain and suffering.

Ms. Boerste underwent a heart surgery in 2011, during which time nurses left an 18-by-18-inch sponge inside her. The surgery was conducted just before lunch, and nurses did not conduct a sponge count before leaving for lunch, which is the hospital's policy, a nurse testified during the trial, the case summary obtained by the Courier Journal shows.

Four years later, Ms. Boerste returned to the hospital with gastrointestinal issues from the sponge blocking her intestine, but she was discharged without being told about the sponge that showed up on a CT scan. Finally, in November 2016, Ms. Boerste came back to the hospital in extreme pain, and the sponge was removed.

Her left leg was amputated below the knee in July 2017 after two unsuccessful surgeries linked to problems at a rehab facility while recovering from the surgery to remove the sponge, according to the report.

Initially, the hospital claimed that the sponge was left behind during a 1988 gall bladder surgery. It finally accepted the blame five days before the trial. However, the defense brought in experts who claimed that Ms. Boerste would have lost her leg regardless of the sponge, due to her diabetes and vascular disease, as well as other lifestyle choices.

University of Louisville Hospital plans to appeal the verdict.

"Safety is always a top priority and, in the eight years since this case began, we have continually enhanced our processes and continue to look for additional opportunities for improvement," said a hospital spokesman in a statement obtained by the Courier Journal.

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