The family of a man who died of a cerebral hemorrhage at Backus Hospital after being given three blood thinners has received a $2.65 million settlement.
Gary Wheelis was rushed to the Norwich-based hospital on Dec. 12, 2012, because he had chicken stuck in his throat, according to a 42-page lawsuit filed in New London Superior Court in 2014. Surgery to remove the chicken was successful, but Wheelis had a minor stroke soon after.
Wheelis, 63, died two days later after his doctors gave him the blood thinner heparin, according to Kelly Reardon, attorney for Wheelis’ estate. The doctors were negligent because Wheelis was already on blood thinners, Reardon said.
“He was in the recovery room and he experienced a minor stroke and that is when everything unraveled,” said Reardon, a partner with The Reardon Law Firm in New London.
Wheelis would likely be alive today if he were not given heparin, Reardon said.
“His blood was already thin. He was on the blood thinner warfarin and had also been given aspirin at the hospital,” Reardon said.
“Heparin was a third blood thinner he was given. He bled out, suffered a stroke, and his brain filled with blood because his blood could not coagulate.”
Reardon said some of the defendant’s experts and at least one of the treating doctors acknowledged they should not have given Wheelis heparin.
No one knew why heparin was administered, Reardon said, noting “there was a lot of miscommunication that night. There were a lot of people involved who were not paying attention to this patient.”
The settlement included $2 million that was paid via Coverys, a medical liability insurance company. That portion of the settlement was against defendant Dr. Yahya Qureshi, of Norwich Medical Associates. Qureshi ordered that heparin be administered by the nursing staff at the hospital, Reardon said. The $2 million was received in July.
The remaining $650,000 will be dispersed next week, Reardon said. Reardon said she is not allowed to disclose who is paying the $650,000 because of a confidentiality agreement.
The lawsuit had nine counts, include loss of consortium and bystander emotional distress for Wheelis’ wife.
In addition to Qureshi, Norwich Medical Associates and Backus Hospital, defendants included Dr. Anthony Alessi, with Neuro Diagnostics.
Reardon said Alessi was a defendant because “Dr. Qureshi claimed during deposition that Dr. Alessi advised him to give the drug [heparin], however Dr. Alessi denied that.”
Jean Wheelis, Gary Wheelis’ widow, was relieved by the settlement, Reardon said.
“She essentially watched her husband enter the hospital with a very minor medical issue, turn into his death a couple of days later,” Reardon said. “It was incredibly shocking to her and resulted in her being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.”
The hospital was represented by Herb Shepardson, a partner at Cooney, Scully and Dowling.
Qureshi and Norwich Medical Associates were represented by Tom Boyce Jr., a partner with Halloran & Sage.
Thomas Anderson, a partner with Morrison Mahoney, represented Alessi and Neuro Diagnostics. Anderson has since confirmed that Alessi was withdrawn from the suit and paid nothing toward any settlement that was reached by the other parties.
Shepardson and Boyce were not available for comment.