After years of unexplainable pain, a woman discovered a foreign object had been left inside of her during a surgical procedure.
Sarah Cunningham had back surgery in 2010 at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, Illinois. In 2011, she delivered her daughter via C-section at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Illinois.
For the years that followed, she continuously had intense chronic abdominal pain, reports CBS Chicago.
“A sharp stabbing pain, would wake me up,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham went to the emergency room at Central DuPage multiple times but doctors never found anything wrong with her, even after two CT scans.
The repeated hospital visits made her feel like someone who was just seeking drugs.
“If I showed up for treatment, it was like I was a drug seeker, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you,'” said Cunningham.
In 2015, Cunningham visited a different treatment center called Adventist Hospital in Glendale Heights, Illinois. A scan was performed and found a foreign object.
“I was shocked,” said Cunningham.
The thin, opaque object was left inside of her body from her a previous surgery. It is unknown exactly what the object is or the staff member responsible.
After procuring her records from Central DuPage, Cunningham was shocked to find that the CT scans she had performed there did show a foreign object inside of her body.
She says doctors knew for years about the object and never told her.
Cunningham has since hired attorney Laird Ozmon, but likely cannot file a lawsuit against the person who left the object inside of her because too much time has passed.
“She was being told … very directly, that it was all in her head,” said Ozmon. “That she’s crazy. There was an obligation to get it out of there.”
“The anger, the hurt, is still there constantly — day after day,” said Cunningham.
Central DuPage Hospital released the following statement after learning of Cunningham’s case:
“We are committed to providing patients with safe, high-quality care and an exceptional patient experience,” the statement reads. “Patient safety is our highest priority and we take all patient concerns seriously. We are thoroughly reviewing this matter and we have reached out to the patient to discuss the situation. However, based on the information we currently have, we believe that the foreign object that was recently removed from the patient was not in a location consistent with any procedures performed at Central DuPage Hospital. Given that this matter is under internal review, we are unable to provide additional information at this time.”
Rush-Copley Medical Center declined to comment due to patient privacy.
The state of Illinois had a 49 percent increase of foreign objects being left in patients' bodies, with 67 cases in 2009 and 100 cases in 2013.
It is voluntary for hospitals to report such cases to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a federal organization that oversees health research services to improve healthcare quality.
The most common item left behind during surgery is a sponge, made from cotton, that is used to soak up blood and other fluids, reports USA Today. An unremoved sponge may lead to an infection that can cause great complications for the patient, even death.
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