Eight years after a botched surgery left Lisa-Maria Carter without her hands, feet or abdominal muscles and sections of her digestive organs, a court has finally ruled that the University of South Florida must pay her $190 million for her suffering.
During an operation to remove a benign ovarian cyst in 2010, a surgeon allegedly sliced through Carter’s small bowel, releasing flesh-eating bacteria that pose no danger inside the bowels, but which destroyed her abdominal tissue.
The incision ripped, Carter, now 53, lost huge quantities blood and had to be given a medication that constricts blood flow from the extremities to preserve the vital organs.
Taking the medication saved her life, but the lack of blood to her hands and feet caused the tissue to die.
Carter’s lawyer, Ken Dandar, told Daily Mail Online that what is left of her intestines sits outside her body in a skin sack, and she has to use an ostomy bag.
With the money awarded to her from the trial, Carter hopes to have an operation to replace her organs in her body, but first the Florida legislature will have to pass a bill to allow her to collect her full award.
Lisa-Maria Carter, 53, can only move around with the help of a motorized scooter because a botched operation in 2010 cost her her hands, feet and abdominal muscles
In 2010, Carter was an ambitious, 45-year-old intelligence contractor for the US military. She applied and got a job in Iraq, but was pulled out of line as she was about to board her plane out of the US, Dandar says.
She was told she hadn’t passed the medical exam. Her health was pristine, except for a benign ovarian cyst.
Carter immediately booked a simple, minimally invasive procedure at Tampa General Hospital (TGH) to have it removed, and told her girlfriend to pick her up four hours after she arrived for surgery on November 1, 2010.
But shortly after Dr Larry Glazerman, a University of South Florida (USF) gynecologist with surgical privileges at TGH completed the operation, the incision site ripped open, and ‘copious’ amounts of bloody fluid poured out of her abdomen, where there should have been none at all.
Carter, of Florida, was about to fly to Iraq to work as an intelligence contractor in 2010 when she was told she had to stay in the US because she had a benign ovarian cyst, thereby failing her medical
Carter’s blood pressure plummeted dangerously. To save her life, the emergency medical team gave Carter vasopressors, life-saving drugs that ensured that blood kept flowing to her brain and vital organs by constricting its flow from reaching extremities.
When she was finally stable, a CT scan revealed that something had gone ‘awry,’ in the surgery, according to testimony from the trial that took place two years later.
Another surgeon, Dr Christopher Hults, found dead tissue ‘consistent with necrotizing fasciitis’ in the abdomen and cut it away, the suit said.
‘All of her abdominal muscles had been eaten by flesh-eating bacteria,’ Dandar said. The suit alleged that the opening in Carter’s bowel was ‘the exact measurement of when [Dr] Glazerman made that first incision,’ Dandar claimed.
Worse yet, Dr Glazerman allegedly used a solution inside Carter’s abdominal cavity to keep the tissues there from sticking together, and the sugar-based compound ‘acts as a ‘power bar’ for bacteria, making it multiply very fast,’ Dandar says an expert witness testified.
When Carter woke from a medically induced coma after surgery – two days after Christmas – she looked down at her hands and thought she was wearing her favorite black leather driving gloves.
But the solid black color was the dead tissue of her hands. Her feet were just as bad, and all four extremities had to be amputated.
Eight years after the life-altering surgeries, Carter can walk with a walker, but because necrotizing fasciitis destroyed her abdominal muscles, she cannot stand up on her own
When she was well enough, Carter hired Dandar to help her sue for negligence.
Dr Glazerman, whose surgical practices were the alleged root of all of her problems, however, was legally immune under Florida’s sovereign immunity laws.
Because he was employed by the USF, a public university, he was technically a state employee, giving him the immune status.
Dr Larry Glazerman performed the allegedly botched operation, but because he was employed by the publicly-funded University of South Florida, he was not liable for Carter’s horrific injuries
Dr Glazerman is still licensed and ostensibly practicing at a Planned Parenthood in Wilmington, Delaware.
Tampa General Hospital was not liable for negligence either, because, like all patients, Carter signed their required waiver, Dandar says.
But after three trials against the USF, two of which ended with hung juries, a Florida judge finally ruled in Carter’s favor yesterday, awarding her more than $190,000,000.
‘I’m very, very happy,’ Carter told FOX 13 News after the verdict. ‘I am so thankful to God for blessing me at this point.’
Since the 2010 surgeries that took so much from Carter, she has been fitted with prosthetic, but the arms – costing more than $100,000 each – malfunction so much that she cannot use them, Dandar says.
Her lower prostheses are functional, and with a walker at the occupational therapy Carter attends three times a week, she can walk, but without abdominal muscles, Carter can’t stand on her own.
The bacteria also destroyed much of her intestines, so ‘the intestines she does have sit outside her body in a skin sack made by taking skin off her back and her legs,’ Dandar says.
NECROTIZING FASCIITIS: THE VICIOUS FLESH-EATING BACTERIA
Necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as ‘flesh-eating disease’, is a rare but extremely vicious bacterial infection. ‘Necrotizing’ refers to something that causes body tissue to die, and the infection can destroy skin, muscles and fat.
The disease develops when the bacteria enters the body, often through a minor cut or scrape. As the bacteria multiply, they release toxins that kill tissue and cut off blood flow to the area.
Because it is so virulent, the bacteria spreads rapidly throughout the body.
Symptoms include small, red lumps or bumps on the skin, rapidly-spreading bruising, sweating, chills, fever and nausea. Organ failure and shock are also common complications.
Sufferers must be treated immediately to prevent death, and are usually given powerful antibiotics and surgery to remove dead tissue. Amputation can become necessary if the disease spreads through an arm or leg.
Patients may undergo skin grafts after the infection has cleared up, to help the healing process or for aesthetic reasons.
There are 500 to 1,500 cases reported a year, but 20 to 25 percent of victims die.
She also has to have an ostomy bag. ‘You can actually see her digesting food through her intestines,’ Dandar says.
Carter, who was once fit and active, is now largely confined to a motorized scooter and requires around the clock care, Dandar says.
Since the surgeries, she got her master’s in psychology, but cannot physically complete her residency and practice. Instead, she plans to pursue her PhD in forensic psychology and work with veterans and those suffering PTSD (like herself), especially ‘maimed soldiers,’ according to her attorney.
Dr Derek Angus, a University of Pennsylvania specialist in sepsis has also asked Carter to travel the country with him, delivering lectures and educating audiences on the danger of the dangerous bacteria those that destroyed so much of Carter’s body.
But her physical condition complicates Carter’s ever-ambitious plans. ‘She will forever no matter what need 24/7 help with everything you can imagine: putting on lipstick, doing her hair, taking a shower or bath,’ Dandar says.
With the money she won in the lawsuit, Carter ‘has all the desire to have surgery at Cleveland Clinic to take off the skin sack, put her intestines back into her body and pull her body together over her abdomen,’ Dandar told Daily Mail Online.
Carter has to win one more battle for that to be possible.
The same sovereign immunity law that protected Dr Glazerman from being sued caps the amount of damages the USF is liable for paying out to victims of negligence like Carter at $100,000.
Even if USF does not apeal yesterday’s verdict, in order to get the full sum awarded to her, Carter will have to fight for a claim bill to be passed through the state legislature, raising the limit.
Passing the bill could take years, but Dandar is optimistic.
‘Hopefully, the legislature will see my client, look at her background protecting the country as an expert on hostile intelligence with top secret clearance and that she did nothing to cause this catastrophe,’ he says.