Lung Transplant Patient Sues Hospital for Mold Infection

UPMC Presbyterian hospital, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is facing at least one lawsuit from mold-related infections that occurred at the hospital in August 2014. The patient claims the hospital was negligent in failing to prevent the infection after his double lung transplant. Our medical malpractice attorneys detail the lawsuit below.

The patient, 70-year-old Che DuVall, remains in the hospital more than four months after his original lung transplant. Typically, a patient can return home about one week after their transplant surgery. He waited three years for the transplant while suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The Exposure

After his double lung transplant, DuVall was placed in a recovery room with two other transplant patients. That room is what'€™s known as a "negative pressure room,"€ which ventilates by bringing air from outside the room. This type of ventilation system is believed to be the cause of the mold infections, as mold spores were present in the outside environment.

A total of four patients suffered fungal infections from the mold exposure, three of whom were in the same recovery room at the same time. DuVall is the only surviving patient, though he had to have two out of five lobes of his new lungs removed due damage from the fungal infection.

All four patients were diagnosed with a rare and often fatal fungal infection. Any patient undergoing an organ transplant has a severely suppressed immune system following the surgery. People with suppressed immune systems are much more vulnerable to pathogens, infections, bacteria and viruses, and are much more likely to suffer serious, life-threatening complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched an investigation into the outbreak but failed to identify one particular cause. Environmental testing of the recovery room did show some common environmental molds, however. Testing is ongoing.

The Lawsuit

In his complaint, DuVall claims the hospital should have known that fungi from mold spores could cause life-threatening infections in humans, and particularly in immune-suppressed patients. He alleges that the hospital’s decision to use the negative pressure room as a recovery room for organ transplant patients greatly increased their risk of airborne pathogens exposure.

DuVall and his wife claim UPMC recklessly and negligently place him and the other patients in the negative pressure room, which is normally reserved for patients who already have some type of infection.

DuVall’s initial surgery was successful, but while in recovery he started having breathing issues. About one month after that, he was forced to undergo a second surgery, where doctors removed two lobes of his new lungs because of extensive damage from the infection.

Throughout this ordeal DuVall was in and out of the intensive care unit and undergoing repeated lung tests. UPMC'€™s medical director of infection control told the DuValls that Che's infection was possibly associated with exposure to mold. The couple was baffled that it took over a month for doctors to diagnose his infection, particularly since he was treated in the same room as other transplant patients with fungal infections.

UPMC's transplant program was suspended for nearly one week after the exposure and the Pennsylvania health department requested UPMC take immediate remedial action. The remedial plan includes administering antifungal medication to transplant patients.

The Financial Strain

Fortunately, DuVall is recovering well, though his wife has had to take out a home equity loan to remodel parts of their house to fit her husband'€™s needs. She is also scouring their home for potential sources of mold contamination before Che can return home. Between the far-extended hospital stay, multiple surgeries, constant testing, and now a home renovation, DuVall’s infection has racked up an enormous health bill. Even with health insurance, the DuValls are now facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket payments.

We Can Help

This is where a medical malpractice lawsuit is most beneficial. The United States is the most expensive place in the world to get sick. It can use up all your savings, inheritance or retirement funds. It can cause you to lose your home, car, job, credit score, and your sense of security. Medical bills keep people from filling prescriptions and going to the doctor, and can cause significant sacrifices. Nearly 30% of Americans with medical bill problems state that a family member had been forced to quit their jobs or cut back on hours to care for them – and 41% said they had to take on extra jobs to help pay medical bills.

If your injury or illness is the result of medical negligence, you may be able to file a malpractice lawsuit. We have been representing patients and families injured by malpractice for 30 years, winning millions for our clients. We can help you gain justice and financial compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress. Contact our medical malpractice lawyers for a free case review. We accept clients nationwide.

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