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Surgery

Jury Awards $21 Million to a Man in Vegetative State After Surgery at Baylor University Medical Center

Carlos Rojas' lawyer says "It's the most bizarre thing I have ever seen."
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Courtesy: Baylor Scott & White Health

A Dallas County jury has just awarded the family of Carlos Rojas $21 million after he was left in a vegetative state following his leg surgery at Baylor University Medical Center in 2017.

Rojas’ mother, Wilda Jennifer Rojas Graterol, filed the suit in 2021 against a registered nurse anesthetist, a physician, U.S. Anesthesia Partners of Texas, and Baylor University Medical Center. The jury found that the providers working with U.S. Anesthesia Partners were negligent during the surgery.

Rojas, who was in the U.S. on a work visa from Venezuela, broke his leg while at work hanging Christmas lights. He needed surgery to fix his leg but was unresponsive after the surgery.

Experts who testified at the trial said Rojas’ suffered from Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, a brain injury caused by a decrease in oxygen or blood flow. The blood pressure records would prove to be a critical point in the trial, says Charla Aldous, who was part of Rojas’ legal team. The handwritten records show no blood pressure issues, but nurse anesthetists gave Rojas multiple doses of medicine to increase blood pressure during surgery. The medications given indicate a lower blood pressure than was indicated on the handwritten record.

“We believe they created the handwritten record in order to cover up what really happened here, which was that Carlos’ blood pressure dropped and they didn’t address it quickly enough to protect his brain,” Aldous said via statement.

Baylor staff had the ability to go back and check the electronic record of the blood pressure (which wasn’t included in the electronic medical record in 2017), but the hospital didn’t preserve it despite Rojas’ state and the likelihood that blood pressure would be a significant factor in the outcome.

While the true intentions of the handwritten record can’t be determined, the discrepancy between the record, the treatment, and the outcome was troubling. Aldous says she always consults Dr. Edward Ochroch, a professor of anesthesiology and critical care at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, when she needs anesthesia expertise. She was shocked by what he said when he reviewed the records.

“Charla, the anesthesia record cannot be true,” Ochroch told Aldous. “It is physiologically impossible. I don’t think I have ever said this, but this is a fraudulent record.”

Rojas is currently in a nursing facility and can recognize his mother but cannot walk or talk. Due to the static nature of the brain injury, he most likely never will. Aldous says the ruling will probably be appealed but hopes the result will be that Rojas and his family can be made more comfortable. Rojas’ mother has been caring for him daily since 2017 and hasn’t been home to see the rest of her family in five years.

“It is the most bizarre thing I have ever seen,” Aldous says of the medical records and the outcome. “I wish they would have done the right thing from the beginning.”

Author

Will Maddox

Will Maddox

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Will is the managing editor for D CEO magazine and the editor of D CEO Healthcare. He's written about healthcare…

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