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When Heather Manning first felt the lump in her right breast, she wasn’t panicked; but she wasn’t going to waste any time either. She was well aware that early detection is key to surviving a breast cancer diagnosis, so she made an immediate appointment to see her gynecologist. To her relief, he assured her it was a benign cyst, nothing to worry about, she didn’t even need a biopsy. She was relieved and left the office grateful to have received such a confident response from her doctor.
HER LUMP – AND HER CONCERN – GREW
But the lump didn’t go away. It grew, and its shape started to change. She told her family she was worried and that she thought she should go back to the doctor. They were growing concerned, too, but hoped that the initial “all clear” from the doctor meant that maybe this lump was something other than cancer. So, Heather made a second appointment – just to be sure – and again, she was told it was nothing to worry about.
This time, Heather left the appointment even more uneasy and skeptical about the information she was given; so, she sought a third opinion. When she gave her history to her new gynecologist, he walked her immediately across the street for a mammogram and a biopsy was performed the following morning.
WORST FEARS REALIZED
This time, it was the news she had dreaded, but had started to suspect: she had stage 3 breast cancer. She would now need immediate treatment: a full course of chemotherapy, weeks of radiation and, ultimately, a double mastectomy and reconstruction.
Heather was now in a fight for her life. In addition to the fear and pain she was feeling, there was a growing frustration and anger. She did everything she was supposed to do. She hadn’t ignored the lump, she had gone to the doctor and – despite being told it was nothing – she persisted when her gut told her something was wrong.
But now, instead of undergoing the more minimal procedures or less invasive treatments that could have come with catching it early, she was facing years of treatment, surgeries and full reconstruction.
“I was severely impacted by my stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis,” said Heather. “I am young, but I now have symptoms that I will suffer from for the rest of my life such as neuropathy that comes and goes in my feet, and severe neuropathy in my right arm, back and side. My intestines and thyroid have been damaged, which will require lifelong medication and treatment.”
GETTING THE BEST MEDICAL ADVICE
“Heather did what so many of us do. When we suspect something is wrong, we go to the doctor and trust the diagnosis,” explained Coker Law attorney Lindsay Tygart. “But sadly, in many cases, we see that just isn’t enough to ensure you are getting the best medical advice.”
Tygart specializes in medical malpractice law. After years of seeing the often-tragic results of poor medical treatment, she recommends patients, or their care givers take the following steps before seeking or accepting a diagnosis that could impact their rest of their lives.
3 WAYS TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Do They Have the Credibility?
Recommendations from friends are great, but not enough. The first step should be to hit the Internet and check out your state’s Department of Health Licensing and Regulation section. Here in Florida, you can go to www.floridahealth.gov/licensing-and-regulation. Your state’s Department of Health Licensing and Regulation section provides information relating to professional, facility and permit licensing, along with information on enforcement.
“I have seen instances where a physician purchases a well-established practice, so patients assume the doctor has the right board certifications, licenses and a good record,” cautions Tygart. “But they might have complaints or disciplinary actions filed against them. Check out their reviews just like you would a movie or a restaurant.”
Trust Your Gut
If you feel like a doctor fails to address your concerns, seems dismissive or declines to order the appropriate tests to confirm their diagnosis or opinion, then either push the issue or get a second opinion. Poor bedside manner can be more than just a bad personality. It can mean that this medical professional is not the right fit for you. Do not be intimidated; get a second or even third opinion until you feel confident that your medical questions are being answered.
“Doctors are human and they can make mistakes or have bad days just like everyone else,” explains Tygart. “But don’t put your feelings aside, there are thousands of doctors out there and it is important to find one you can trust.”
Don’t Suffer in Silence
If you do find yourself in a situation where you suspect you’ve received the wrong diagnosis or neglectful medical care, don’t be afraid to consult an attorney. An attorney may be able to help navigate what went wrong in your treatment and help recover compensation for economic damages like medical bills or lost wages, or for non-economic damages like pain and suffering and emotional damages. Medical cases can be complicated and difficult to decipher, so even if compensation can’t be recovered, the closure of knowing what happened – or why it happened – may still bring peace of mind. Another option is to report the doctor to your state’s Department of Health Licensing and Regulation Board to help ensure that someone else will not suffer the same fate.
COMPASSION AND COMPENSATION
Heather and her family decided to pursue legal action against the doctor. Not only did he fail her twice, putting her life at risk, but now her medical costs were soaring and in excess of $900,000.00. Tygart was just as angry as Heather over the inexcusable delay in diagnosis. As a woman and young mother, just like Heather, Tygart understood the fear and pain Heather was having to endure.
“In this case, we combed through all of her medical records and medical bills, word-by-word and line-by-line and were able to uncover some gross inconsistencies and inaccuracies,” asserted Tygart. “That helped us build a case against the doctor and the medical group to help Heather obtain compensation for her injuries.”
BE YOUR OWN BEST ADVOCATE
Heather is now going on two years cancer-free and grateful that she listened to her gut and her family and kept following up until she got the correct diagnosis. She encourages all women to become their own best advocate and make sure that if a doctor is inattentive, like hers, that women find an attorney like Lindsay who will fight to make sure that they are compensated for their pain.
“I still struggle with learning that the severity of what I suffered could have been reduced if my concerns and obvious symptoms were not dismissed by a medical professional – twice,” said Heather.
“I honestly do not know how my case would have played out without Lindsay and Coker Law. They are trustworthy, they provided reliable information and, most importantly, the attorneys at Coker Law care about their clients.”
Attorneys/staff involved in case: Lindsay Tygart, Esq. and Heather Brown, Paralegal
Date of Settlement: October 17, 2017
Amount of Settlement – Confidential