After several trips to the Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento, Robert Downey woke up in a hospital and discovered that his hands and legs had been amputated. Downey and his wife, Cheri, believe the hospital repeatedly failed to properly diagnose an infection that spread to his limbs and caused the need for amputation. The Downeys announced that they are suing the hospital, claiming that if the hospital had properly diagnosed the infection, Robert’s limbs could have been saved.
During the summer of 2011, the Downeys took their son to the hospital for treatment of a sore. Tests revealed that their son had an MRSA infection, and after a few weeks of antibiotics, the boy recovered without complications. A few weeks later, Robert Downey developed a similar sore and saw the same physician’s assistant who had diagnosed his son. Although the physician’s assistant remembered Robert’s son and observed the sore, he ordered no culture and gave Robert oral antibiotics.
However, the infection persisted, and Downey returned to the physician’s assistant again. Later, he went back a third time because he was suffering from severe shoulder pain, and he saw a different physician’s assistant. Although Downey told the assistant that he believed MRSA was causing the shoulder pain, the physician’s assistant assured Downey that the sore and the shoulder pain were not related. Instead the doctor explained that Downey was suffering from bursitis.
Downey was sent home three times, and two days after his last visit to the hospital, he collapsed. A cousin of the MRSA infection had invaded Robert’s body. This infection, methicillin-sensitive staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) is often treatable with antibiotics if caught early. However, the infection had spread, and since Robert was in a coma, Cheri had to make the decision to proceed with the amputations. Doctors amputated his hands, his right leg at the knee, and his left leg below the knee.
Before the amputations, Robert had worked for 20 years in law enforcement and operated a respite care service with his wife at the time of the incident. While he does have prosthetic hands to help him complete daily tasks, he needs more rehabilitation before he can be fitted for prosthetic legs. Although the family is grateful that Robert is alive, they want the hospital to take responsibility for its alleged medical mistakes and to “warn hospitals not to let this happen in the emergency room.”