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Jury to decide Tyrone medical case

Hospital, doctor accused of failing to follow policies resulting in injuries to patient

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A medical malpractice case could wrap up today in Blair County Court where a jury is being asked to decide if a Tyrone man should be awarded money to address his life-changing physical and mental conditions.

Christopher Carey Miller of Tyrone, now 45, went to Tyrone Hospital for an MRI on Oct. 4, 2016, where he had an allergic reaction to gadolinium, a chemical substance that creates greater contrasts on MRI images. The reaction prompted his heart to stop, leading to brain damage that robbed Miller of life-functioning skills.

In a civil court trial that started last week, Pittsburgh attorneys Brendan Lupetin and Gregory Unatin are trying to convince the jury that Tyrone Hospital and radiologist Dr. Kelly Briggs failed to follow policies and procedures that would have addressed Miller’s allergic reaction faster.

Attorney Michael Sosnowski, on behalf of Tyrone Hospital and Dr. Biggs, began his case on Monday. While Dr. Anthony Zinobile was also named in the lawsuit when it was filed in 2018, he has since been removed.

In court Monday, Sosnowski called on Dr. Michael A. Bruno, a radiologist at Hershey Medical Center.

Bruno testified that the allergic reaction Miller experienced is rare at larger facilities and especially rare at a small facility like Tyrone Hospital. It might happen in one in 10,000 cases, Bruno said.

Miller’s attorneys have faulted Tyrone Hospital for the lack of alarm in its MRI room, thereby forcing the hospital’s MRI technician to return to the MRI control center where she activated the alarm to summon help for Miller. The attorneys have also faulted the hospital for not having a drug box in the MRI room, with easy access to medication and supplies in case a problem surfaces.

While hospital policy indicates a box should be in the MRI room, Bruno acknowledged that the MRI room is 60 feet away from the emergency room.

“In the ER department, they have the things they need: the tubing, the needles, the suction,” Bruno said.

Miller, however, wasn’t immediately transferred to the ER.

Biggs, who responded to the alarm set off by the MRI technician, went to the MRI room, then left to retrieve Dr. Zinobile, who oversees the emergency room. Zinobile hadn’t responded to the alarm in the MRI Room because Zinobile wasn’t familiar with the alarm sound.

Lupetin, in questioning Bruno, suggested that Biggs could have administered a medication to counter Miller’s allergic reaction.

Bruno said he successfully treated one of his own patients with epinephrine to address an allergic reaction, but cautioned against doing that without a proper assessment.

“Epinephrine is probably the most dangerous drug I administer,” he said.

Lupetin also asked Bruno if Biggs could have sent someone else to find Zinobile, delaying Miller’s move to the ER for treatment. Bruno said he would agree that what happened contributed to the delay.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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