John Davis describes his wife as “quite a pistol.” Angela Davis grew up a cowgirl and worked for many years as a state probation officer who treated her clients with a special blend of no-nonsense care and warmth, John said.
But life changed drastically for the Fort Worth couple in 2014. An elective hip replacement left the once independent Angela quadriplegic and unable to care for herself. The Davises have been caught in a legal battle with Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth ever since and have not received any payouts from the hospital.
“They don’t want this case to ever end until Ms. Davis dies,” said Mark Sudderth, the Davises’ attorney. “Nobody’s been paid, and she hasn’t received any money just to make her life a little bit better.”
A spokesperson for Texas Health Resources said, “We acknowledged at trial that Ms. Davis has suffered a significant and devastating injury and our deep regret for her and her family’s suffering. Our contention is that the errors that led to her injury were not the result of the hospital’s actions, and we believe we had proper safety policies and governance in place. Although we understand the jury’s decision, we have filed motions to address the legal rulings which we believe led to an incorrect verdict.”
Sudderth has worked with the Davises since 2014. He said medical malpractice cases commonly take a long time to reach a conclusion, but this case has gone on even longer than usual.
In April, a jury determined the Davises were owed $8.3 million in damages. Thanks to a series of motions and a request for a retrial, the hospital has not made any payments, and the court has not yet issued a judgment on the case. At a hearing in December, Judge Brooke Allen of Probate Court 2 will determine whether to honor the jury’s verdict or issue a retrial.
In 2014, the Davises had few concerns about Angela’s hip replacement. Though a major surgery, a hip replacement is pretty routine and straightforward, Sudderth said. Angela’s hip had caused increasing problems over the years, and the pain limited her mobility.
John recalls arriving at the hospital early on May 14, 2014. Around 10:30 a.m. after surgery, he was told everything went well and that he could go home to wait until his wife was more alert. Shortly after he returned home, he received a call that there had been a complication and that he should return to the hospital. Upon his arrival, he recalls seeing Angela on a gurney flailing her arms.
“I said, ‘Hmm, sure seems like there’s a problem,’ ” John recalled, sitting in their home in West Fort Worth.
A medical error had left Angela fighting for her life. During the anesthesia process, a nurse anesthetist allegedly administered tranexamic acid into Angela’s spinal column. This medication promotes clotting and prevents bleeding but is not administered via the spinal column. Staff had allegedly mixed up the syringe with the appropriate medication, local anesthetic bupivacaine. This medical error wreaked havoc on Angela’s body, causing seizures and organ failure. She was sent to the Intensive Care Unit, where she stayed for eight months until she stabilized.
“To their credit, the nurses and doctors in the ICU did a wonderful job, even though administration, on the other hand, was trying to throw us out,” John said.
The Davises have carried on with their lives as best as they can. John provides all of his wife’s care. Though Angela cannot speak, has cognitive impairments, and cannot move her arms and legs, he focuses on the parts of life they still can enjoy together.
“She can understand everything, see everything,” he said. “When her friends come over, she lights up, so … we’re managing.”
But John is 10 years older than his wife, and he has concerns for her future care. Since Angela cannot speak, he fears how she would fare in a nursing home. Money from the lawsuit would go to her future care, John said.
For now, the Davises spend their time at home watching television, eating together, and enjoying each other’s company.
“When you’ve been married over 30 years,” John said, “you’re almost telepathic.”