Case in point #2: A lawyer friend of mine from Springfield introduced me to Jeff and Holly. Jeff had Stage IV melanoma, which he had discovered had spread through his lymphatic system to his lungs, liver and ultimately to his bones. When I met Jeff, he was in unimaginable pain, but he did not whimper, whine or wander into the ‘woe is me’. Jeff was in the prime of his life before he was diagnosed with melanoma in November 2007. He was a respected financial advisor who was running a growing, robust firm. People sought him out because he cared about them. Jeff and Holly went the extra mile for those with whom they had contact. After I took on what soon became a wrongful death case for Holly and her daughters in Springfield, I heard story after story about Jeff’s service to others, his daily vision for giving his hand to those in need.
Jeff had a skin biopsy in June 2004 that the pathologist said was benign. When the melanoma spread and became symptomatic by October, 2007, his doctors looked back at that June 2004 biopsy and found that it had been misdiagnosed - that he had early, localized melanoma 3 and ½ years earlier. Melanoma is readily treatable - almost always entirely curable — when caught early. Melanoma is deadly when misdiagnosed and permitted to spread. A pathologist has tools to make the right diagnosis, and it should ALWAYS be made accurately. This pathologist was sloppy. Jeff was the second person who she had misdiagnosed in two years, and the other man also died of melanoma.
When I met Jeff, he was determined to live. He did not want to be the subject of a wrongful death lawsuit. He loved life. He adored his 6 and 9 year old daughters. When he gave his deposition a couple of months before the melanoma took him, I asked him what he wanted his girls to know. He said: ‘make sure that you treat others the way you want to be treated. Make lots of friends. And, you know, I just don’t want this whole episode, you know, to be something that - that changes their lives for the negative. I - I want them to move forward and, and again, just focus on all the good out there . . .’
This is who Jeff was: not vengeful, not always think about me, not get what you can get while you can. Jeff was a testament to courage, to the good that is in the world.
Holly strives today to create an urgent care cancer facility in Springfield. She places time and energy in taking what has happened to Jeff, to her and to her girls and finding some way to make a positive for others.
In my work representing people whose lives have been changed by careless acts of others, I meet people everyday who have to confront life-changing challenges. They face financial ruin. They deal with pain that ravages their bodies. They suddenly face a world without one who has been their world. But over and over again, I am inspired by the determination and spirit I see. My path in life permitted me to get to know Sherri and Chris, and Jeff and Holly just a little. I am a better person for it. And I hope that their doctors, who made terrible medical errors, are better doctors now because their patients had the courage to hold them accountable for their negligence.