The epidural, which is used to reduce labor pain in nearly 75% of all births in the United States, is responsible for helping most mothers get through the childbirth process. And while most new mothers have a positive experience when taking epidurals, that’s not the case with everyone.
Amy Bright is one mother with a horrific epidural story you’ve likely never heard before – a story that begins in 2003 when she gave birth to her youngest son, Jacob, at Naval Hospital Jacksonville in Florida. The mother and child were both healthy and everything seemed fine.
Unfortunately, things started to take a turn for the worse. Roughly two months after giving birth via a C-section, Bright started to experience an intense level of pain in her back. She would go on to deal with that back pain for 14 years as doctors continuously misdiagnosed the problem.
In 2017, a mere 14 years after giving birth, Amy Bright and her family finally started to receive real answers regarding her back pain. After having a CT scan of her lumbar spine, doctors revealed something strange lodged in her spine – later identified as part of a spinal needle.
After further investigation, it was determined that Bright had a portion of an epidural needle – three centimeters, to be exact – ‘trapped’ in her spine. In fact, two centimeters of that needle were buried directly into the bone. The needle has been stuck in her spine for over 14 years.
As a result, Bright has experienced continued nerve damage and unrelenting back pain – she’s also losing ability in her left leg and foot. “Every time I move and walk and bend and twist and sleep, that needle moves inside my spine,” said Bright in an interview with PEOPLE in 2018.
Doctors originally diagnosed Bright with sciatica, which refers to pain that travels along the path of the sciatic nerve. They prescribed a variety of different treatments and remedies over the past 14 years, but nothing was working. Now, it might be too late to remove it from Bright’s spine.
After learning of the needle in her spine, Amy Bright and her legal team accused the staff at Naval Hospital Jacksonville of malpractice and fraud. According to their claims, the staff knew of the needle in the spine for 14 years, yet they neglected and even avoided doing anything about it.
“These needles are about 9 or 10 centimeters and they have a tip on the end that the provider is supposed to inspect to make sure they have the whole needle. They knew this was in her, according to our experts, because so much of the needle was missing,” said Bright’s attorney.
A lawsuit was eventually filed by Bright and her legal team in December 2018. At the time, she saw several neurosurgeons who confirmed they could remove the needle from her spine. While they said it was possible, they were reluctant to recommend it due to the risk involved.
“There’s a golden window of opportunity and if you get this taken out while it’s fresh and the structures haven’t adhered around it, you could have likely removed this safely,” said her attorney, adding that removing the needle now could result in a spinal fluid leak or paralysis.
There hasn’t been any news regarding the lawsuit over the past three years, so we have no way of knowing whether justice was served – or if Amy Bright decided to have the needle removed. What we do know is this is a rare case that doesn’t happen often – and shouldn’t ever happen.
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