WILKES-BARRE — A lawsuit filed Wednesday in the death of Dr. Jennifer Sidari said a series of errors began shortly after she was admitted to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center last May and compounded due to negligence and short staffing during the Memorial Day holiday.
That led to the her death from a blood clot in her brain a little more than two weeks after the West Pittston woman received her medical degree, the suit alleged.
The 26-year-0ld Sidari, who graduated on May 11 from the first class of The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, died on May 29 in Geisinger Medical Center, Danville where she was to begin her first year of residency as a pediatrician the following July.
Attorney Matt Casey of the Philadelphia law firm of Ross Feller Casey LLP filed the suit in Luzerne County Court on behalf of her parents, Peter and Patricia Sidari of West Pittston. He is seeking unspecified damages against Geisinger Wyoming Valley, Plains Township; Geisinger Health System and Geisinger Health System Foundation, both in Danville.
“In her case, her situation is unique,” Casey said Wednesday. “She touched a lot of people in such a short period of time.”
Matthew Van Stone, a Geisinger spokesman, said none of the defendants has received a copy of the suit. “Without being able to see it and review it, we would not be able to comment,” he said.
According to the suit: Sidari came to the medical center in Plains Township on May 26 complaining of persistent and severe headaches for more than 10 days. She also had been bruising easily and was taking over-the-counter medication of Motrin and Advil that provided no relief.
But the attending doctors and staff failed to follow “some of the most basic and fundamental principles in medicine,” such as properly taking her medical history and doing a “simple head imaging.” As a result, a blood clot in her brain worsened over a period of more than 40 hours after she came to the emergency room.
“Due to this inordinate delay — between late Sunday night and early Tuesday morning when the first head imaging study finally was ordered and performed — her condition went from one that was easily and completely correctable to a full-blown, life-threatening medical emergency.”
The time frame was during the Memorial Day holiday and the hospital was not adequately staffed, the suit alleged.
“Essentially, everything that should have happened for the most part didn’t occur until Tuesday when everybody got back to work,” Casey said.
The suit said her initial diagnosis was idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, caused by low blood platelet levels that can result in easy or excessive bruising and bleeding. She was prescribed Tylenol and Prednisone.
But despite the abnormalities in her blood work combined with her other symptoms, neither a head imagining was ordered nor was a neurologist consulted to rule out a blood clot as the cause of her “unremitting headaches.”
As her stay continued, she was treated with pain medication for her complaints of persistent headaches. Still, her neuromotor and sensory skills were normal and intact.
It wasn’t until May 28 that someone from the medical center’s neurology services saw her and a CT scan of her head and brain was ordered. Up to then, no one from the medical center had noted that Sidari was using a hormonal vaginal ring contraceptive, the NuvaRing, “which is known to be associated with an increased risk of, and to predispose female patients to, clotting.”
When she finally underwent the CT scan, there was no showing of bleeding in her brain, but there were signs that were “worrisome for and consistent” with venous sinus thrombosis of a blood clot.
Further testing was ordered. While awaiting the testing, her condition worsened and she was in a stupor and unable to answer questions. An MRI was ordered, but she was not cooperating and given Ativan intravenously to sedate her.
She complained of “tunnel vision” and the exam was cut short. The limited MRI results showed that there was brain hemorrhage, and as a result she was placed in the intensive care unit, where she was crying and could not speak and respond to commands.
Taken to Danville
There was an attempt made at her bedside to relieve the pressure in her brain and efforts began to fly her by helicopter to the Danville hospital because there was no interventional radiologist available at Geisinger Wyoming Valley to break down the clot.
Because of unspecified reasons, she could not be flown to Danville and was transported there by an ambulance. Her prognosis was “critically guarded.”
She arrived at Danville shortly after 10 p.m. May 28 and underwent a CT scan that showed she suffered irreversible brain damage. Any procedure to intervene at that point was called off.
She was in a coma by then and placed an life support. There was “zero chance for any meaningful recovery,” and she was taken off life support and declared dead at 4:37 a.m. May 29.
Her death was the result of the blood clot causing the brain to swell and moving the tissue away from its usual position inside the skull.