$6.3 million awarded to Elgin veteran over 2012 leg amputation

A Kane County jury recently awarded an Elgin man nearly $6.3 million after a malpractice trial over a 2012 amputation of his left leg following prostate cancer surgery.

The award to Bill Hein, 71, for pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of normal life, emotional distress, loss of consortium, and reasonable expense of necessary medical care is believed to be the largest amount ever in the county for this type of malpractice case, according to his attorney.

Craig Brown, attorney for Hein and his wife, said the verdict also dispels the notion juries in Kane and DuPage counties won't side with plaintiffs in malpractice lawsuits or impose significant penalties.

"The Heins are very humbled and very appreciative," Brown said. "The verdict established that a Kane County jury can and will render a fair and just verdict when the plaintiff has met the burden of proof at trial."

According to Brown, Hein, a Vietnam veteran, went to Sherman Hospital in June 2012 for a "fairly routine" surgery for prostate cancer. After surgery, Hein complained of pain and numbness in his left leg, but nurses said it was normal postoperative discomfort, Brown said.

The next day, the doctor who assisted in the surgery made rounds in the morning and ordered a test for Hein's leg, but it was the wrong type of test.

Dr. Kate Onyibor was called in to check out Hein's leg and ordered another test, but instead of requesting results be processed immediately, she sought them as soon as possible, which bumped the timeline from an hour to six hours, Brown said.

Meanwhile, "(Hein's) leg is basically dying," Brown said, adding Onyibor should have called a vascular surgeon to examine Hein's leg. "The vascular surgeon would have ensured the tests were done in an hour and they would be prepping for emergency surgery. (Onyibor) was Bill's last chance, and if she simply would have made one phone call to a vascular surgeon, his leg would have been saved."

Another surgery was ordered, and doctors tried for 12 days to salvage the leg before it was amputated above the knee, Brown said.

During a trial in late April and early May before Judge Mark Pheanis, Brown said defense attorneys argued the leg could not be saved, Sherman nurses were at fault and a vascular surgeon's examination was not needed.

Mark Smith, a defense attorney for Onyibor and Inpatient Consultants of Illinois, did not return a phone message seeking comment on the case.

Hein's cancer is in remission, Brown said.

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