Misdiagnosis at Aspen Valley Hospital led to leg amputation for Basalt man | PostIndependent.com

Misdiagnosis at Aspen Valley Hospital led to leg amputation for Basalt man

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Aspen Valley Hospital
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times

A misdiagnosis of a patient at Aspen Valley Hospital led to the amputation of his right leg, a federal lawsuit alleges.

Couple Gayle and Gregory Shugars of Basalt filed a complaint July 26 in the U.S. District Court of Denver alleging negligence by two AVH physicians, as well as one of their assistants and the hospital itself.

The hospital declined comment last week, referring to its standing policy to not publicly discuss pending litigation.

Gregory Shugars, the suit alleges, was forced to have his right leg amputated in August 2017 while under the care of the UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.

The amputation came after Shugars initially visited the AVH emergency room Aug. 8, 2017, with “sudden leg pain so severe he could no longer walk,” the complaint says.

After hospital staff performed certain labs and a venous ultrasound, Shugars was discharged though he “still had severe leg pain, tingling, numbness and swelling in his right leg without performing additional tests that should have been performed,” the suit alleges. “Mr. Shugars also had an elevated pulse and high blood pressure that needed to be stabilized. Mr. Shugars required a wheelchair to exit the hospital.”

The next morning, Aug. 9, 2017, Shugars visited a local family practitioner, who referred him to the ER at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, the suit says.

There, a doctor could not detect a pulse in his right foot — AVH personnel did not check the pulse in his foot, the suit alleges — and determined that Shugars’ situation was critical and ordered him airlifted to the hospital in Aurora, according to the complaint.

Shugars was hospitalized in Aurora from Aug. 9 to 24 and underwent five surgical procedures on his right leg, says the suit, also alleging if AVH had correctly diagnosed Shugars, he “would have been treated without delay and he would have experienced a much-improved outcome.”

Shugars’ life has been dramatically altered from the amputation, the suit says. “The right leg amputation caused Mr. Shugars to spend a significant amount of time rehabilitating — both at home and medical facilities — as well as make numerous trips to a prosthetics clinic many hours away from his residence,” the suit says, noting he can no longer do the activities he had previously enjoyed, such as hiking, biking, skiing, golf, travel and general home maintenance.”

The suit, filed by Telluride attorney Peter Ricciardelli, does not specify the amount in damages the Shugars are seeking. In addition to AVH, the suit also names as defendants Drs. John Glismann and Amy Yactor, as well as Dawn Kopf, a physicians’s assistant. The suit also seeks a jury trial.

The Shugars did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Meanwhile, another federal civil case concerning an amputation is set to go trial Jan. 27 through Feb. 5.

That lawsuit, filed by Pennsylvania resident Bruce Panczner in April 2017, alleges AVH surgeon Dr. Lesley Fraser failed to properly treat him for frostbite after he and two men spent a night in the backcountry when their snowmobile rentals got stuck in the deep snow en route to the Goodwin-Greene Hut.

The incident, which occurred in February 2016, resulted in the amputation of Panczner’s fingers at CU Hospital in Aurora, alleges the suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court of Denver. AVH is not a defendant in the suit.

Fraser’s attorneys have argued that because of the severity of Panczner’s frostbite, “it was unlikely that any care would have salvaged all his tissue,” according to U.S. Magistrate Judge Gordon P. Gallagher’s summary of the defense in a May 14-dated pretrial order.

Defendant Great Western Adventures, which rented the snowmobiles, originally was a defendant but was later dropped from the suit.


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