My Medical Malpractice Story (some Of It)

It's 30 years later and I am still paying for the medical malpractice done by Peter Jannetta when he did the "Jannetta Procedure" on me for trigeminal neuralgia, a disabling facial pain disorder involving only the 5th cranial nerve.
I also am paying for the betrayal by my attorney, Michael Fishbein, who never got experts to evaluate me and who would have told us what could still have been done at that point to mitigate the damages.
The sensation in my left eye was lost from a procedure (as opposed to a surgery before that that went well and stopped the pain for 3 months) before Jannetta did his. (That was a known risk)
Jannetta did a defensive EMG test that showed the previous surgery had also injured my facial, or 7th cranial nerve (where he should not have been). The injury was almost 50% and indicated Jannetta had a good chance of paralyzing the left side of my face if he operated on me.
I asked him directly "Can my face be injured?" He replied, "I promise you your face cannot be injured." He repeated this to my parents as did his resident.
When I awakened in the recovery room the entire left half of my face was paralyzed. Nevertheless, Dr. Jannetta left for Germany that day. Absent his seeing me once in the NICU to verify the paralysis (he stayed no more then a minute) I did not see him again until 8 weeks later in his office.
At that time the face looked terrible; because of the paralysis - but I also had to have my left eye sewn shut to protect it as it was unable to close on it's own.
It turned out that: 1) that no one bothered to look at the results of a presurgical emg test until AFTER the surgery, done defensively, obstensibly to prevent malpractice claims 2) Jannetta's son was across town having an emergency appendectomy while I was in the OR.3) the surgical records of the resident and Dr. Jannetta did not jibe with the records of the surgeon before, and after, him 4)Dr. Jannetta wrote in his texts and articles that reoperation after a failed procedure (as in my case) had much higher risks and lower success rates although he never told me this.
My lawyer Michael Fishbein forced me to settle the case for a negligable amount, one that covered almost none of my lifetime medical expenses or for pain and suffering for the remainder of my life. (I was 26 at the time and living in NY, looking to work as a singer/actress. The pain stopped that idea and Dr. Jannetta/his resident, left such a mess inside my brain that the next surgeon said he could not do what he intended because of all the scar tissue. This was apparently left from Dr. Jannetta's procedure as neither he nor the resident mentioned finding scar tissue in their operative notes. (They also evidently never found the acrylic plate that was put in from the first surgery - done in the exact same area as Jannetta's)
The appeals court called Dr. Jannetta's testimony regarding the known risks of his procedure perjurious - In 2 separate depositions he called the risk a "major and common complication. On the stand he called it "unknown".
Neither my lawyer or the court, at the lower level or above, referred him to criminal law for perjury, a felony.
The Pa. Superior Court decision stated: "We have little difficulty in concluding that Dr. Jannetta's testimony at deposition was different than, or inconsistent with, the testimony at trial." Levy v Jannetta, CCP Allegheny County, GD 81-7689; appeal -J. A370017/92 Levy v Jannetta et al, No. 00150 Pittsburgh, 1992. settled, 1995.
The evidence of malpractice and negligence, including "ghost surgery", a practice Dr. Jannetta admits to in his biography, Working In A Very Small Place, was abundant. Nevertheless Fishbein's associate, Robert Unterberger, forced me to agree to a settlement of under $220,000 (I am not allowed to say the amount). He did this by calling me 7 times in a 2 1/2 hour period. Each time he gave me a lower number that the other side was offering as settlement. That was the opposite of what he was supposed to do.
There is a lot more to the story but I had to self represent for some time (I am not an attorney). A judge told me I should try and settle the case. He felt it was worth, because there was no lawyer, $250,000 - 300,000. This was before Dr/ Jannetta perjured himself.
Now I had a lawyer, and the proof of perjury, yet my lawyer was talking number way below the minimum the judge had believed was the proper amount.
Finally, crying, I told him to just do whatever it took to stop this. This was on a Friday evening. On the Monday morning following I informed Michael Fishbein, the lawyer who had taken the case and whose name was on the contract to take the med. mal case, what had happened' "I do not accept the settlement. It was forced on me and against my will". Mr. Fishbein told me I had no choice. I had to accept since I agreed to it. .Having no one to go to for help I capitulated. I found sometime later that as long as it is within a reasonable period of time (this was 3 days including a weekend) a client has the absolute right to refuse a settlement.
Interestingly, this case was in the courts for 14 years. 3 weeks after this forced settlement Governor Tom Ridge announced Dr. Jannetta as his Pa. secretary of health nominee.
One has to wonder if this case was all that stood in the way of this nomination.
Despite a letter to the Governor informing him that the Court called Dr. Jannetta's testimony perjurious, the Governor's aide, David Fiscus, informed me via letter that the governor had "complete confidence" in Dr. Jannetta.
I am not sure what he would have had to have done to lose that confidence.
Since then I have had to have my eye sewn shut numerous times.
When they sewed it closed the first time, approximately 2 weeks after the surgery and I had returned to my parents home to recuperate, they wanted it to be permanent. It was so incredibly ugly I insisted it be opened.
.I have spent the last 30+ years attending to the eye. It has been closed numerous times over the years. Thankfully it has always healed.
I am also thankful the worst part of my trigeminal neuralgia is gone (I wrote about this in Miracles). It is wonderful on many levels but also because I need to patch the eye every night. I was not able to tolerate the touch of patch or adhesive, or hand, before the Miracle and could not have patched then. Since patching I have had had very reduced instances of the eye drying out and needing care. I still have to attend to it numerous times throughout the day to add artificial lubricant.

I am alone.
My family turned against me many years ago, for freudian reasons, too long a story for now, maybe later, but not one sibling there for any of my 12 brain surgeries (3 were out of state so really 9).
The first 2 my parents were there, the third only my father and the remainder of the operations, none of them, not even cards, flowers or phone calls.
I have not been able to work since the pain started. (Except for a 3 month period after the first surgery stopped the pain. And then it started back in again.)
You make friends thru work and family; I have neither.
My one friend moved to another state and my other friend lives across the country.
I have been going through by myself. And I am tired. It is so hard, I can't even begin to tell you. But much of this is because of Peter Jannetta.
If he had even bothered to suggest physical therapy for the face more movement would have come back then has come back over the years. According to the plastic surgeon I have less then 50% movement ,(I think more) and almost none in my forehead.
Michael Fishbein, had he done his due diligence and gotten experts to evaluate the damage, which he didn't bother to do, could have helped with the actual damages from Jannetta. After evaluation there is a good chance they would have suggested PT.
To add insult to injury 2 months before trial I said to Fishbein the lawyer "You're not acting as my advocate" He replied, "I have been doing this for 20 years and after that time you lose your zest for it." (He has since denied saying this.) What he didn't tell me was that while he was doing almost nothing in my case he was the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs in the diet drug Phen-fen case where he won a 54 million dollar verdict for people, some of whom he has been quoted as saying do not have damage.)
I am now relying on some state aid and will run out of money in the not that far distant future. This is the direct result of Jannetta, and Fishbein not bothering to do their jobs.
I wish I could find a positive way to end this post but it eludes me.

(The picturres are from when I did dinner theater, and a head shot from when I moved to NYC to try and become a singer/actress.  The third after Jannetta did his Jannetta procedure (MVD), the button on the eye is because it had to be sewn closed to protect it. (I do not have the origiinal immediately available so scanned in an old copy of it) and then 21 years later when I had to have it reclosed for approximately the 6t time.  They wanted to keep it closed in 79 when first sewn shut but I could not tolerate the way i looked and the way my family behaved about it reinforced how awful it was, one sister telling me I would never see my nephews again if I ever took my sunglasses off in front of them again)
leejcaroll leejcaroll
2 Responses Jan 16, 2013

My husband was diagnosed with cancer in June 2013. He was admitted to the hospital on June 3 and a biopsy was done the next day. My husband also had a moderate brain injury, due to an accident in 2010. I was at the hospital with my husband every day. Informed, every doctor and nurse, that I met, that my husband suffered from Traumatic Brain Injury, so they knew about it. While we were at the hospital, I noticed, the doctors were not talking very much about treatment. After he was released, I set up a private meeting, with one of the doctors who treated him, while he was in the hospital. I asked the doctor, why my husband was not being offered more treatment. He said, because my husband did not act excited about getting treatment. I clearly told the doctor, that because of the brain injury, my husband was unable to express any kind of emotion. I even caught one doctor in the room, telling my husband that same people, opt not to get treatment. The only treatment he received was 8 treatments of Palliative Radiation. The first 4, he seemed to get better. When he was diagnosed, he only weighed 90 pounds. After the first 4 treatments of Radiation. He started drinking Ensures like crazy. He gained 25 pounds and seemed m6ch stronger. A few months later, he developed an infection, so we went back to the doctor. My husband had been taking 20 mg liquid Morphine, 4 times a day. He never complained of pain, but at that doctor visit, he was switched from liquid Morphine, to Morphine pills. 1 instant release and one extended release. The extended release was 65 mg and the instant release were 15 mgs. The day after, he was put on the pills, he stopped drinking Ensure and his weight plummeted. At our next appt, I made the doctors very aware of this, and they had nothing to say. When I t8ld them, that I didn't think enough was being done for him, the doctor ignored my question, completely. In the end, my husband died, under Hospice Care, on our couch with 3 holes in his neck. Frankly, I believe that the Hospice, let him dehydrate. I had told her, he had not had anything to drink in 3 days, she didn't say a word.I really think that I should be able to sue the doctors and the Hospice or at least they should be reported, for what they did.

I am sorry for your experience, and for his. Obviously they did not understand or have compassion for your plight.
It can't hurt to talk to a lawyer. Most do not charge for the exploratory appointment to see if they feel you have a case.
You might want to write up a complaint for the licensing agency(cies) or talk to your attorney general's office.
I wish you well with whatever direction you take. (Please know even a good lawyer and a good case will take a few years. Sometimes it feels better to let it go then to continue fighting.)
Thank you Missy for reading what I wrote and taking the time to send me your message Carol