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Man Sues Cedars-Sinai After Becoming a Quadriplegic

The suit alleges Michael Markow underwent a "high-risk" treatment "rarely performed in the United States" with disastrous results.

A man suing two doctors and Cedars-Sinai hospital became emotional on the stand today. Patch file photo.
A man suing two doctors and Cedars-Sinai hospital became emotional on the stand today. Patch file photo.

By BILL HETHERMAN
City News Service

During emotional testimony that caused his wife to leave the courtroom in tears, a man testified today that his life has dramatically changed since he became a quadriplegic, allegedly due to the medical negligence of two anesthesiologists he sued along with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

"It hurts so bad," 67-year-old Michael Markow of Newbury Park told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury. "Not just my neck, it's my whole body."

Markow was assisted initially in his testimony by his 63-year-old wife, Francine, who periodically sprayed a substance into his mouth to keep him from getting hoarse. The two have been married since 1968.

However, she ran crying from the courtroom when her husband began talking about how the things he once enjoyed and took for granted are no longer possible, including caring for the couple's dogs and hosting parties.

Francine Markow's departure prompted Judge Elizabeth Feffer to break early for the lunch recess.

Defense attorneys deny any breach of the standard of medical care occurred in Markow's case and that there is no proof his condition was caused by the conduct of the doctors.

The suit filed by the Markows in January 2012 names the hospital as well as anesthesiologists Howard Rosner and Nirmala Thejomurthy. Markow first sought help from Rosner, a pain management anesthesiologist, at the Cedars- Sinai Pain Center in 2006, according to court papers filed by the Markows' lawyers.

The suit alleges Markow underwent a "high-risk" treatment involving "bilateral deep and dangerous injections" on Nov. 11, 2010, in a procedure "rarely performed in the United States."

According to the plaintiffs' attorneys' court papers, Rosner agreed that the procedure "is not taught in any medical school in the United States and is not part of any training of pain management specialists."

One of Markow's attorneys held a microphone near the mouth of the wheelchair-bound Markow as another of his lawyers, Joy Robertson, questioned him. Markow testified that nine days after the procedure, he placed his hand in his freezer at home and could not feel the cold. He said he stumbled as he walked to the table to have breakfast.

"I really couldn't control my right leg," Markow testified.

A fork fell out of his hand twice, he said.

"Now I was really nervous," he said.

Markow said a neurologist he was seeing at the time was notified, and he was told to immediately go to the Cedars-Sinai emergency room. He said he had confidence he was going to the right hospital.

"Cedars is the best," Markow said. "Something was going on with me."

Markow said he remembers arriving at the hospital and being put in a wheelchair. "Then my mind is blank from there," he said.

The doctors treating Markow "promptly recognized that Mr. Markow had a serious spinal cord abnormality," according to his attorneys' court papers.

Markow said he spent 13 months hospitalized and was eventually told he would be a quadriplegic. As a result, his wife was forced to sell their longtime, multi-story home so they could move to a rented house with one story because of his condition, he said.

Markow said it was difficult having to leave his former residence.

"The world's upside down," he said. "I can't work, I can't do anything and I don't live in my own home."

Five months into his hospital stay, Rosner came to visit, but he was not alone, Markow said.

"He was there with a team of other doctors," Markow said. "It wasn't very personal. The whole thing made me sick."

Markow said he had once considered Rosner a friend.

Markow testified that he deals with pain daily and that some days are worse than others.

"There have been some pretty nasty nights," he said.

Markow testified that he has a daytime caregiver and that his wife assists him at night. He said he needs to be turned every two hours while in bed, just like when he was at the hospital. He said he is fed a liquid diet through a tube placed in his stomach.

Although friends still stopped by after he came home from the hospital, the number of visits had steadily decreased, he said.

"I don't blame them," Markow said.

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