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July 28, 2014

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Inadequate care, unspeakable pain

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Leila Navidi

Martha and Tyrone Bush are suing Desert Springs Hospital, which they claim did not provide Tyrone with adequate care. He developed severe bedsores that are still painful.

Tyrone Bush

Tyrone Bush and his wife Martha inside their lawyer's office in downtown Las Vegas Friday, June 11, 2010. In September 2008, Bush had a quadruple heart bypass operation at Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center. The operation was successful, but he developed severe decubitus ulcers, or bedsores, on his buttocks and heels after not being turned or moved enough in his hospital bed. Two years later, Bush cannot work, the wounds are still healing and still cause him severe pain. The Bush's have filed a lawsuit against Desert Springs. Launch slideshow »

Tyrone Bush winces as he walks into his lawyer’s office, like he’s stepping barefoot on shards of glass.

He sets a thick foam pad on a chair before gingerly lowering himself to the seat. Beside him is Martha Bush, his wife of 26 years.

In September 2008, Bush underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery at Desert Springs Hospital, but the wounds have not yet healed.

The problem is not his chest. The operation was successful.

It’s the bedsores.

Words can’t capture the horror of severe bedsores, or “decubitus ulcers.”

One of Bush’s bedsores was the size of a salad plate, covering his buttocks and sinking deep to the tailbone, the lawsuit alleges. The bedsores on his heels were bigger than golf balls and to the bone. Almost two years later the sores are healing, but are still craters of exposed flesh surrounded by necrotic skin.

Bush, 60, was working full time as a maintenance man before entering Desert Springs. Now he’s lost his job and is struggling to heal.

For almost two years, his life has been measured by changing dressings and weekly doctor appointments. Often that means debridement — an excruciating process of scraping the dead flesh from the wounds without anesthetic so they can heal from the inside out. With his buttocks exposed, the appointments are as humiliating as they are painful.

Bedsores occur when patients are not turned or moved in bed. The pressure of body weight can cut off the blood flow to the fleshy pressure points on the underside of the body, often the buttocks and heels. Hospital employees are supposed to assist and encourage patients to reposition themselves to prevent bedsores. Hospitals also have special air beds that help shift the patient so no one body part bears the brunt of body weight.

Bush, who is overweight, said he was in a regular hospital bed until the sores were severe. He said nurses did not help shift his weight, and because he suffers from gout, he struggled to move himself.

Even after the bedsores were identified, hospital staff did not address them for about five days, according to the lawsuit the Bushes have filed against Desert Springs.

The legal response by the hospital blames the Bushes for Tyrone’s bedsores, although it includes no detailed explanation of how the sores were caused. Bush consented to care and the hospital did nothing wrong, the defense alleges in its response to the lawsuit. Hospital officials declined to comment further.

Desert Springs is part of Valley Health System locally and owned by Universal Health Services, a for-profit chain based in Pennsylvania.

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