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Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre Settles Suits with Two Families

By MICHAEL R. SISAK

Patricia Sabol collapsed and died 11 hours after she was discharged from the emergency room at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre hospital in September 2006. Doctors at the hospital had attributed Sabol's severe abdominal pain to a urinary tract infection and sent her home with a prescription for antibiotics before anyone had reviewed an X-ray that indicated a more severe condition.

Susan Stanish died while resting in her room at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre, 12 hours after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured right ankle in April 2007. She succumbed to respiratory failure after nurses treated her with the wrong medication.

Geisinger settled medical malpractice lawsuits with the families of both women on Monday.

Geisinger will pay approximately $3.2 million to Sabol's husband and two daughters and $1.8 million to Stanish's husband and mother.

Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Toole approved both settlements Monday.

Trish Quinter, a spokeswoman for Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre, said the hospital has a policy prohibiting comment on litigation. Joseph Quinn, the attorney for the plaintiffs in both cases, did not return a message for comment.

Sabol, 66, of Wilkes-Barre was taken to Geisinger South by ambulance on Sept. 7, 2006. The day before she felt the onset of lower abdominal pain. The pain intensified throughout the night and Sabol was unable to sleep, the lawsuit, filed by her husband, Job, and daughters, Sharon Finn and Roseann Sabol, said.

When paramedics arrived around 8:30 a.m., Sabol was "in a supine position on the sofa," and was, "unable to sit up or stand due to the severe sharp, stabbing-like pain," which affected her right groin area and her lower right abdomen.

An X-ray was taken, but not read until 4 p.m., more than four hours after Sabol was discharged. The X-ray showed signs of a much more serious problem - the perforation of a stomach ulcer, which had been allowing stomach and intestinal content, including acids and bacteria, to seep into the abdominal cavity.

That night, Sabol took a bath to ease the abdominal pain, which continued in such severity, she needed Job to help her out of the tub. Sabol collapsed around 9:30 p.m., as Job guided her down the stairs of their home. She went into cardiac arrest and never regained consciousness.

Stanish went to the emergency room shortly after 12 a.m. on April 25, 2007, after falling at home. An X-ray revealed that she had fractured her right ankle.

According to Stanish's medical history, she suffered from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and obstructive sleep apnea, which necessitated great care in the "administration of narcotic medication," the family's lawsuit said. Narcotic medication could decrease a patient's respiratory drive, the lawsuit, filed by her husband, Stanley, and mother, Helen Aversa, said.

Stanish underwent surgery around 6:30 p.m.

Her orthopedic surgeon, James Matucci, prescribed several medications, including Vicodin, Xanax and morphine.

Around 10 p.m., nurses administered the prescribed doses, but also 2 milligrams of Dilaudid, a derivative of morphine, which had not been prescribed by Matucci, the lawsuit said.

At 3:15 a.m., another 2 milligrams of Dilaudid were passed into Stanish's system through an intravenous line, the lawsuit said. An hour and a half later, nurses found her unresponsive.

Life support was terminated at 5:25 a.m. Stanish died about an hour later with her husband, Stanley, at her bedside.

PLEASE NOTE: Every case is fact specific, and these results do not guaranty the same results will be obtained in a different case.