Jurors hear from both sides in amputee trial

Published May 10, 2007

TAMPA - How sick was Sally Lucia when she went to Memorial Hospital on Super Bowl Sunday 2001?

Attorneys weighed in on that question during opening statements Wednesday in Lucia's medical malpractice trial, their first shot at swaying jurors.

They presented two drastically different accounts of how Lucia, 47, progressed from a tummy tuck to the amputation of all her fingers and much of her legs.

The initial stomach surgery went well, but after going home, something went wrong.

Steve Yerrid, her attorney, said Lucia felt so ill from an infection in her abdomen that she traveled by ambulance to the hospital on Jan. 28, 2001.

Although her fingers were blue and her breathing labored, he said she was awake and alert during her early hours at the hospital.

Her body crashed five to six hours later because the on-call surgeon, Dr. George Haedicke, failed to give her enough fluids and to surgically remove an infected mass, Yerrid said.

Attorneys for the doctor and the hospital, both named in the lawsuit, countered that a team of doctors treated Lucia and didn't think she would live through the night. Lucia was in septic shock by the time she arrived, said Brian Stokes, Haedicke's attorney.

Haedicke, who now practices in Tallahassee, drained fluid from her wound but felt she was too unstable for more surgery.

"He did the best he could for a patient who was very, very, very, very, very sick, " Stokes said.

Thirty hours after Lucia arrived at the hospital, other doctors removed a grapefruit-sized infection from her abdomen. She remained in critical condition when she transferred several days later to Tampa General Hospital.

By then, Yerrid said, the tissue in her hands and below her calves had died.

Lucia, a mother of three, has incurred about $1-million in medical bills. Yerrid will argue that her emotional pain has cost much more. On Wednesday he showed jurors a picture of her wedding ring. She wears it around her neck now that her fingers are gone.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at 813 226-3337 or cjenkins@sptimes.com.