After 24 years as a paramedic and registered nurse, Joanne (not her real name) found herself on the other side of patient care. She had a severe allergic reaction, and when she called an ambulance for help, things took a turn for the worse. The paramedic and EMT overdosed Joanne, leaving her with serious long-term side effects.
Joanne is one of 3.5 million Americans each year who have serious complications from medical errors. An additional 98,000 die every year, making medical errors the third leading cause of death.
Joanne turned to Johnson Jensen LLP to hold the ambulance service responsible for the overdose. Now she hopes her story will spare others.
In July 2012, Joanne had a reaction to fumes from household cleanser while cleaning her bathroom. Almost immediately, her throat began closing up. “I could feel the swelling,” she recalls.
An ambulance rushed to the scene, but in the hurry to treat Joanne, the paramedic and EMT overdosed her, causing a massive heart attack. “It felt like a truck was driving through my chest,” she says.
The paramedic took Joanne to the hospital, but the ordeal wasn’t over after she was treated and discharged. She still has frequent episodes of intense chest pain, shortness of breath, and sweating for five to 30 minutes at a time. As a result, she had to quit both of her jobs.
Several physician friends warned Joanne that medical bills could stack up after a heart attack, so Joanne contacted Johnson Jensen for help. Attorney Bob Johnson met with her that day. He agreed to take on her case but warned that it might take longer than most injury cases, which typically last six months to a year.
This fall, three years after the overdose, Joanne successfully resolved her case against the ambulance service. She received a settlement that will help her and her family cover her medical bills and lost wages.
With the case behind her, Joanne wants to become a hospital safety activist. She hopes to share her story with medical students and warn them about the dangers of rushing through procedures. “Don’t ever get reckless,” she says. “Triple-check everything.”
Joanne also wants to share her story with patients and encourage them to speak up if they have questions or concerns. “Doctors are human,” she stresses. “They could put you on a medication that’s bad for you.”
Patients sometimes hesitate to ask questions because they don’t want to cause problems or appear to doubt their doctors, but double-checking dosages and drug interactions is vitally important. You or your doctor could catch life-threatening mistakes.
It’s always okay to ask questions, Joanne says. Speaking up could save a life, and it could be your own.