Just over five years ago, engineering student Carlos David Castro Rojas, then 27 years old, went into Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas for surgery on a fractured shin. He has been in a vegetative state since, unable to communicate or perform simple tasks like feeding himself. A jury has now awarded his family $21 million in their lawsuit against an anesthesiologist and certified registered nurse anesthetist employed by US Anesthesia Partners of Texas, WFAA reports. During a two-week trial, lawyers said his blood pressure dropped while under general anesthesia, causing a brain injury due to a lack of oxygen.
Lawyers said Rojas was told that a certified registered nurse anesthetist—CRNA—would provide anesthesia, but he wasn't informed that "a more qualified anesthesiologist was available and an option for him." When Rojas' blood pressure dropped, an anesthesiologist was supervising four different CRNAs at the same time, all in different operating rooms, according to the lawsuit. "Allowing one anesthesiologist to supervise multiple CRNAs at the same time may be good for business but it’s not good for the safety of patients," said attorney Bruce Steckler. "The consequences can be tragic." In a press release, lawyers said that records show the CRNA left the operating room for 12 minutes in the middle of the procedure.
Lawers said the hospital, which earlier settled with the Rojas family for an undisclosed sum, failed to preserve electronic blood pressure records and the CRNA neglected to monitor his brain activity during the two-hour operation. Rojas, now 32, fractured his left tibia when he fell off a ladder at a job hanging Christmas lights. He is at a nursing home and will require 24-hour care for the rest of his life. Mother Wilda Rojas has moved to Dallas to care for him. She says she was urged to take him off life support, but refused. "I will take care of my son," she says. "He was everything to me." Rojas "has the mental capacity of about a one-year-old child, but he does express happiness when he is with his mother," per Fox 4. (Read more anesthesia stories.)