Injection Gone Wrong: Part 3

  1. 18

    This is part 3 and the final entry for Susan’s story.  Her story gives us pause and makes us feel her pain and frustration. I want to take this opportunity to publicly say thank you to the real author of this story, for allowing me to tell it for her.  She gave me such rich details to put in her story, and I loved partnering with her in this project.  Through it all she has kept her sense of humor and spice, and that is what I admire about her.

    Injection Gone Wrong: Part 3

    Driving to get her MRI under fluoroscopy, Susan kept reflecting on the fact that she was told that her first one didn’t show any damage to her left shoulder. Being claustrophobic added to her anxiety as she pulled into the parking lot. However, she did feel an inkling of hope as she stepped up to check in.

    Susan told the tech what had happened at the first MRI, and he knew exactly what she was talking about.


    “That is what we call shadowing. When a patient is small statured, then the machine sometimes has difficulty focusing on the area of interest. Positioning is very important for patients like you, we will position you with your left shoulder closest to the center of the machine rather your whole body being in the center. Don’t worry, we will get some good pictures.” the tech reassured her.

    Sitting once again in front of a doctor for her results, the doctor who failed to listen, investigate, or even care made Susan’s stomach twist and turn.

    “The test shows bone marrow edema in the area that the injection was given,” he began, “But I want you to have a full body scan, Susan. There must be something else wrong. I want to see if something else shows up.”

    There it was, in black and white, the flu shot had hit the bone and the trauma had caused the edema... Finally! She had proof! Leaving his office, Susan now realized that the doctor wanted to find something else wrong so that he could say it wasn’t the flu shot. Susan could only say, “bring it on.”

    The full body scan required more needles and an extra bonus of a nuclear medicine chaser. It would show any fractures, dysplasia, arthritis, or cancer in Susan’s bones. She knew what they would find, exactly what she had been telling them for months.

    Once again, back in the doctor’s office for another test result, Susan was handed a piece of paper, “Have you seen this?” Looking at it, she realized it was an addendum to her first MRI. After her full body bone scan, the radiologist had looked back at the first MRI and wrote an additional note stating that there was damage there three months ago along with specific image numbers for reference. The full body scan showed one hot spot - her left shoulder, exactly where the flu shot was given. Not only that, the radiologist wrote in the report that the damage was due to the flu shot.

    Susan now knew that the first radiologist had not read her MRI correctly, not only that the doctor had told her he had looked at the MRI disc which he most likely didn’t or he would have seen the damage.

    “I’m beginning to think your problems are related to the flu shot. Since I’ve never treated anyone with your problem, I don’t know how to treat it. You could probably google it,” he said with a chuckle, scratching his head. (Pause and let that sink in)

    “I have googled stuff about this, but all it did was scare me to death!” Susan responded, her eyes wide, cheeks flushed.

    Trying to process all she had learned and heard in the past ten minutes made her heart beat fast. They discussed sending her to another doctor, which was something Susan wanted to do anyway.

    When he left the room, the nurse leaned over and whispered,”He is just very conservative.”

    Oh, so what exactly does that mean? It’s ok to waste four months of my life calling me a liar, ignoring my pleas, or the fact that he would resort to googling my problem because he didn’t know what to do.

    Several weeks later, Susan got word that she had a new doctor, and it was the one she wanted in the beginning. This made her the happiest she had been in months. A case worker was also assigned to her case and would attend the doctor visits with her.

    Seeing the new doctor walk in the room made Susan want to cry with relief. Gulping, she shook his hand.

    “Hello, Susan, nice to meet you. I have reviewed your scans, and I can see the exact trail that the needle took, and all the cartilage, tendons, rotator cuff, and bone it affected. I also wanted to let you know that I have at least 15 other patients that have the same problem as you. Why in the world did someone give a shot there? I just don’t understand.” He paused and looked up from his paperwork, “Let me tell you, Susan, this will not be an easy, or quick recovery. It will take over a year, but you will get better.”

    Susan let out her breath, not realizing she had been holding it. She smiled and tears came to her eyes. Having validation meant the world to her after all she had been through. He had other patients like her, and he had a plan! The tension in her shoulders loosened, the sudden blood flow made her dizzy.

    Before she left his office, he gave her a steroid injection in her left shoulder joint, and put her back in physical therapy, telling her she should have been in therapy the entire time. He also told her that surgery would not help at this point, but instructed her to be patient.

    Susan went back to work with restrictions, but at least she was on a path to recovery.
    Even though the steroid shot helped, Susan still had limited range of motion, and continued to have pain. Sleeping on her left side still hurt, and the OTC anti-inflammatories she was taking kept her stomach upset. About a month later, she had another injection which again gave limited relief. The doctor concluded that surgery may be exactly what she needed so he could see exactly what was going on.

    Susan had the shoulder arthroscopy that showed inflammation on the rotator cuff that had spread into and throughout her muscle, tendon, cartilage, joint and joint bursa. He showed Susan’s husband the pictures from the surgery and they showed what looked like red spider veins that was the actual inflammation. He told her husband that he had washed out the inflammation, and shaved part of her rotator cuff as well as had done a decompression because she had not been able to use her shoulder for so long it had become compressed. Because he had to shave so much bone, Susan continues to have pain and popping of the shoulder joint.

    Back to work and life, Susan continues to have pain daily, limited range of motion, and still can’t sleep on her left side. Repetitive movements using her left arm causes pain in her shoulder. She can’t lift her arms above her head or lift anything. Susan had to change the way she dresses, and how she blow dries her hair. Now she has chronic tendonitis and bursitis in her left shoulder from the injections that cause her continued pain.

    Almost two years after she received a shot that has forever changed her life, Susan continues to fight to get better. She has since found out that the person giving the flu shots were medical assistants contracted by the hospital, and when she searched online, she could not find any certifications for that person. She wants you to know that she is changed forever. This event has affected her not only physically, but emotionally and financially as well.

    An injection of any kind given in the wrong place by an untrained person can result in severe injury. We are advocates for our patients and we must be advocates for each other as well. The telling of this story is part of being an advocate for one of our own.

    Her story is far from over, and I have been honored to share it. I hope and pray for her full recovery, physically and financially.

    For the first 2 parts of this story, please read:

    Injection Gone Wrong - Part 1

    Injection Gone Wrong: Part Two
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Apr 28
    Do you like this Article? Click Like?

  2. Visit Brenda F. Johnson profile page

    About Brenda F. Johnson, BSN, RN

    Brenda F. Johnson has '23+' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Gastrointestinal Nursing'. From 'Ooltewah, Tn'; Joined Oct '14; Posts: 175; Likes: 590.

    Read My Articles

    26 Comments

  3. by   amoLucia
    TY for the comeback with Part 3.

    It is sad that that so much time, frustration and pain was spent on such a debilitating injury. It is also sadder that a much better outcome could have prob been achieved had different approaches been taken.

    Learning opportunities abound here.

    Best wishes to "Susan" for her future.
  4. by   klone
    Are you Susan? I noticed that in one place it said "...my husband..." instead of "...her husband..."

    I'm hoping that Susan fully recovers. Chronic pain is exhausting.
  5. by   OrganizedChaos
    That's just so sad. From the beginning when the untrained MA gave her the shot in the incorrect area to the doctor didn't seem to give two poops & told her to just "Google it". I'm glad she finally was seen by a doctor that really cares. But to know that the shot causes all the pain she is in & she will never be the same, is such a same. I'm so sorry for her.
  6. by   Kooky Korky
    Tremendously disturbing.

    One issue - she could have seen her doctor of choice right away, just that she probably would have had to pay for it,
    although she might have been able to get WC to cover it retroactively once WC and her employer knew the extent and
    seriousness and reality of her injury.

    I hope she sued the employer and the contracted company. However accidentally, she suffered mightily and still apparently
    suffers, as do her loved ones who care about her, no doubt.

    Does hitting a bone cause this kind of pain and injury or was it hitting the nerves/tendons? We were taught that hitting bone
    was painless. I have hit bone a couple of times but the patients did not c/o pain at the time or later, as far as I am aware,
    thank God.

    She also should have legally gone after the first orthopod.
  7. by   smartassmommy
    It's a hospital! Why didn't they get a team of nurses to administer the flu shots!
  8. by   3ringnursing
    We are all hoping for a full recovery for you, and that you get your life back too Susan!

    We're all praying for you, and keeping you close to our hearts!

    {Virtual hug from one colleague to another!}.

    calvin-and-hobbes-
  9. by   blondy2061h
    Quote from smartassmommy
    It's a hospital! Why didn't they get a team of nurses to administer the flu shots!
    No kidding! You have no idea what kind of training some contracted MA's have. We let RN's get the shots from each other or their boss, and employee health has RNs from anywhere in the hospital pick up OT for two weeks a year to vaccinate the rest of the hospital staff.
  10. by   blondy2061h
    Quote from Kooky Korky
    Tremendously disturbing.

    One issue - she could have seen her doctor of choice right away, just that she probably would have had to pay for it,
    although she might have been able to get WC to cover it retroactively once WC and her employer knew the extent and
    seriousness and reality of her injury.

    I hope she sued the employer and the contracted company. However accidentally, she suffered mightily and still apparently
    suffers, as do her loved ones who care about her, no doubt.

    Does hitting a bone cause this kind of pain and injury or was it hitting the nerves/tendons? We were taught that hitting bone
    was painless. I have hit bone a couple of times but the patients did not c/o pain at the time or later, as far as I am aware,
    thank God.

    She also should have legally gone after the first orthopod.
    Touching the humerus isn't unusual or harmful in a correctly given deltoid injection on a thin person. Usually you can feel the needle hit the bone and bounce back a bit if you do it. More disturbing for the injector than the injected.

    This shot was given in the actual joint in a completely incorrect location. And there in lay the trouble.
  11. by   Brenda F. Johnson
    Quote from smartassmommy
    It's a hospital! Why didn't they get a team of nurses to administer the flu shots!
    Exactly! Why didn't they? We all assume that that would be protocol, but in this case not so much
  12. by   eatenbylocusts
    Quote from blondy2061h
    Touching the humerus isn't unusual or harmful in a correctly given deltoid injection on a thin person. Usually you can feel the needle hit the bone and bounce back a bit if you do it. More disturbing for the injector than the injected.

    This shot was given in the actual joint in a completely incorrect location. And there in lay the trouble.
    Yes, I cringe just reading it. I hit bone one time giving a deltoid injection to a very thin patient. She did not complain, but the memory freaks me out many years later.
  13. by   Zyprexa
    Untrained medical assistants are SCARY!!!!! I can't believe they aren't required to have any training or certification.

  14. by   CharleeFoxtrot
    I have been following this and am so glad for the update, what a terrible ordeal. Hoping the writer continues to get better, and knows a good attorney because if that was me I'd sue the socks off them-and I am not the kind to say that normally.

close