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Judge to sue after surgical sponge was left in him

A Belle Glade judge plans to sue two radiologists and a surgeon after a foot long sponge that was left in him after surgery and went undiagnosed for five months, even as he developed serious health issues from it.

Late last year 67-year old Nelson Bailey checked into Good Samaritan Medical Center for surgery to treat his diverticulitis which was causing him abdominal pain. After the surgery the pain not only persisted, it got worse, according to the Palm Beach Post.

When Bailey complained to his doctor, he was sent for a CT scan but the metal marker on the sponge was reportedly misidentified in the test results. Bailey had several more CT scans when the pain did not subside, and again the marker was misidentified.

Finally doctors identified the sponge and in March he underwent another surgery, this time at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, where doctors removed the foot long by foot wide sponge which had begun to fester and was full of pus. Doctors also had to remove a part of Bailey's intestine which had been severely damaged by the festering sponge.

As part of the settlement he reached with hospital and its owner, Tenet Healthcare System, Bailey is allowed to talk publicly about his experience in hopes that hospitals will make changes so something like this never happens again.

Bailey said he'd like to see all hospitals have equipment on hand to unfailingly spot sponges or other medical equipment that may be left behind after surgery. While at the Cleveland Clinic, he learned of a wand that can be waved over a patient which can detect sponges and equipment tagged with microchips. He plans to speak with the Board of Directors at Good Samaritan about obtaining this type of equipment and using it post-surgery.

Bailey would also like damage award caps placed on medical malpractice lawsuits lifted.

"I don't know what all these caps are. That is not my area of the law," Bailey told the paper. "But what I would like to see is when you have malpractice per se, something this egregious, the damages should be between the parties, a judge and jury without the state legislature dictating limits."

Bailey said the missed sponge was not the only problem he encountered during his stay at Good Samaritan. After the surgery, the hospital's pharmacy reportedly incorrectly dispensed a drug which was supposed to lower his blood pressure; instead it sent his heart racing and Bailey said it nearly gave him a heart attack.

His doctors corrected the problem and Bailey said he's had no lasting physical effects from the mix up.