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Pasco man testifies in 'pink eye' negligence trial

Arcadio Hernandez looks around the courtroom during a morning recess in his civil trial in which he is seeking damages against Morton Plant North Bay Hospital, a physician and physician’s assistant. Hernandez claims he is disabled because of a misdiagnosis at a hospital emergency room.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Arcadio Hernandez looks around the courtroom during a morning recess in his civil trial in which he is seeking damages against Morton Plant North Bay Hospital, a physician and physician’s assistant. Hernandez claims he is disabled because of a misdiagnosis at a hospital emergency room.

NEW PORT RICHEY — After a full week of testimony by medical professionals and experts, 21-year-old Arcadio Hernandez took the stand Monday in his negligence lawsuit against Morton Plant North Bay Hospital.

"I'm here today because it was an aneurysm and it was misdiagnosed," he said during testimony.

Hernandez went to the emergency room on July 10, 2010, complaining of pain on and around his eye. He was seen by the nursing staff and a physician's assistant, Bethany Berghoffer, who diagnosed him with a form of conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye. A supervising doctor named Helene Harper never examined Hernandez, but signed off on Berghoffer's diagnosis. They gave him a prescription for antibiotics and sent him on his way.

That November, an aneurysm in his head burst, and Hernandez had emergency surgery. Had they properly diagnosed his condition in July, Hernandez's lawyer Steven Deutsch said, Hernandez would not be permanently disabled — mentally and physically — as he is today.

When questioned in court, Hernandez sometimes spoke slowly. He said he had trouble remembering things.

He has seizures regularly as a result of his condition, he said, that felt like "getting electrocuted and jumping like a fish on the floor."

He walks with a cane and permanently lost the use of one of his hands.

Deutsch asked Hernandez what he wanted to do with himself now that he's disabled.

"Now that I got one arm I guess I could get into creating games for the youngsters, maybe create some games for the (Playstation 3)," he said. "That would maybe be something a one-arm guy could do."

"Have you ever done that before?" Deutsch asked.

"Me? No. I said maybe," he said. "I got to check that out."

"How would you go checking that out?" Deutsch asked.

"I don't even know," Hernandez said. "I'd need help with that. I'd need to go on the Internet to find out how that works, to make a game and everything."

Deutsch is seeking damages between $8.5 million and $9.5 million, to cover care for Hernandez for the rest of his life and to match his potential lifetime earnings.

Lawyers representing the hospital, Berghoffer and Harper contend Hernandez's diagnosis was correct, given the circumstances and symptoms.

Attorney Andrew Efaw claims Hernandez's symptoms changed over time to better fit the lawsuit. He grilled Hernandez about inconsistencies in his testimony, and how he described his symptoms as both a headache and eye pain.

Hernandez said he felt both.

"Was there a time," Efaw asked, "when you said, 'It's not my eye, it's my head?' "

"I told them it's behind my eye," he said, "going to my head."

The trial is expected to go to the jury later this week.

Pasco man testifies in 'pink eye' negligence trial 12/09/13 [Last modified: Monday, December 9, 2013 9:48pm]
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