A Baltimore woman has sued the Johns Hopkins Health System, saying she had to have her legs and arms amputated after doctors at one of its hospitals failed to diagnose a uterine infection.
Joyce Ferguson says the infection spread throughout her body, causing septic shock, organ failure and gangrene, and leading doctors to remove her legs above the knees and her arms below the elbows.
The 59-year-old woman says she visited the emergency room at Howard County General Hospital with severe pain three times in 2012. It wasn't until the third time, she says, that she was diagnosed with the infection. But by then, she says, it was too late to save her limbs.
She filed the lawsuit last week in Baltimore Circuit Court. She is seeking unspecified damages.
Officials at Hopkins declined to comment.
"Patient privacy laws prevent us from discussing personal health information, and as a long-standing practice, we do not comment on pending litigation," the institution said.
Lawyers for Ferguson say she needs extensive and costly medical care. They say she will be dependent on others for the rest of her life.
"In our view, and that of experts we consulted, Hopkins physicians squandered multiple opportunities to get this right," Howard A. Janet, managing partner at Janet, Jenner & Suggs in Baltimore, said in a statement. "Their missteps had horrific consequences."
Ferguson says she went to the emergency room at Howard County General with abdominal and pelvic pain on Feb. 28, March 5 and March 6, 2012.
During her first visit, she says, she was given painkillers and told to see her gynecologist. She says her gynecologist performed a Pap smear and prescribed antibiotics.
She says the infection prevented the doctor from performing an endometrial biopsy. The gynecologist scheduled a hysterectomy.
During her second visit, she says, she was diagnosed with acute pelvic pain and sent home without treatment.
On the third visit, she says, doctors instructed her to see her private physician. She says she was then found lying on a stretcher, shivering, incoherent and cold to the touch. Her extremities appeared mottled, she says, consistent with signs of septic shock.
She says doctors at Howard County General then told Ferguson's partner to drive her to St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore to see her private physician.
But 20 minutes later, Ferguson says, she was admitted to Howard County General with a diagnosis of endometriosis and early stages of sepsis. The sepsis was ultimately determined to be an E-coli infection that started in the uterine tissue.
Ferguson's lawyers say doctors failed to conduct a full pelvic exam to figure out the cause of fluid buildup in the endometrial canal seen in ultrasounds performed in the emergency room.