Julie Fetcko has been living a nightmare for more than four years. On Christmas Eve of 2012, Fetcko boarded a plane with her husband to travel to a family gathering. Her husband was piloting the plane when it ran out of fuel. As he attempted to make an emergency landing, the plane was ripped apart. Julie’s husband died instantly as he dove over his wife to shield her from the impact. “I felt my ankles break. When they broke, it was like slow motion,” she said.
Paramedics soon arrived at the crash site and airlifted Julie to a trauma center by helicopter. She remembers asking which trauma center was closest and being told that she was going to Ocala. The Ocala trauma center had only been open for 16 days at the time. When she arrived at Ocala, it was total chaos. “They just did not know what to do with me. Everybody seemed confused,” she said.
Her attorney Pat Deckle said the hospital was not adequately prepared to treat Fetcko’s injuries. “She had the kind of ankle fracture that nobody at that hospital, nobody, nobody who worked there or nobody who was available to them, could fix,” he said. To make matters worse, the medical director at Ocala “tried to realign her badly broken ankle bones in the trauma bay himself.” The director was not an orthopedic surgeon and did not know how to properly treat the fractures. Then another doctor from Ocala “who did not regularly do any work below the knee” actually opened up her ankles and “attached external fixation devices”.
Hours later, Fetcko was in terrible pain. “I had all these rods sticking out of my legs. They had drilled into my shins, into the tops of my feet. There were rods going through the backs of my ankles,” she said. The care that Fetcko received was shocking because attorneys say she “was medically stable to be able to be transported”. There were no less than three trauma centers nearby, all of which met the highest level-one trauma designation in Florida. All three centers had experienced doctors who could have fixed Fetcko’s ankles properly, but they did not transport her.
According to the lawsuit, the doctor who attached the rods “recommended that the patient be transferred to a hospital or surgeon who could have properly treated” her. However, his requests were denied by hospital administration. Ultimately, Fetcko was sent home with a bill for more than $186,000 and still had not been properly treated. She was in unbearable pain by the time she got in to see an ankle specialist at Tampa General Hospital.
The specialist wrote in his reports, “I’ve never seen a treatment like this before, and hopefully I will never see it again.” The day after he first evaluated Fetcko, he operated, but too much time had passed for treatment to be effective. “I’ve been through seven surgeries, one adjustment, and I have three more surgeries to go because of what they did,” Fetcko said.
Christopher Ligori, a Tampa attorney, was shocked when he read the details of the case. “To think that doctors purposefully denied transport of this woman who needed urgent medical intervention is just unthinkable. They will undoubtedly answer for those poor decisions in court.”