Judith Livingston: Family of mom who died after botched surgery awarded $13M
The New York Post, by Julia Marsh – November 25, 2018
A New Jersey mom is still taking care of her husband and children — seven years after she died from a botched operation at a Manhattan hospital.
Kearny homemaker Cheryl Raefski was 43 when she checked in to NYU Langone Hospital in November 2011 for the removal of a benign polyp on her colon. During the operation, colorectal surgeon Dr. Christian Hirsch apparently didn’t notice that he had burned part of Raefski’s small bowel, the family’s lawyer, Judith Livingston, told The Post. The stay-at-home mom was in excruciating pain after the surgery, yet it took the doctor four days to order a CAT scan, which detected a severe infection, according to Livingston. By the time doctors went back in to operate, Raefski was in septic shock and died, Livingston said.
Raefski’s husband, Darren, sued the doctor — and last week, a Manhattan jury took less than a day to award the family $13 million. Darren Raefski, a Harrison, NJ, cop, said that when he told the couple’s children — Madison, 17, and twins Kyle and Paige, 13 — about the verdict, he described it as a sign that their mom was still watching over them. “I take care of you now, but your mother did a better job than I did because she’s still taking care of you,” he told them. He told The Post, “I know nothing can bring my wife back, but at least we know she’s still watching over us.”
Livingston said Hirsch was clearly negligent in treating Cheryl Raefski. When she came out of the first surgery, “she was in excessive pain, described in the hospital records as 10-out-of-10 pain, while on the strongest pain killers they can give you,” the lawyer said. Dr. Hirsch “just missed it and refused to see what was going on,” until it was too late, she added. Before Raefski died on Dec. 15, 2011, she told her husband, “They hurt me. They hurt me really bad.”
Each of the children will get $3 million from the payout, and the rest will go to Darren. The husband sued the doctor in 2012, but there were years of routine delays in the state court system. Darren, 53, said he “felt great” when a jury finally “said, ‘Yup, these doctors got it wrong.’ You believe in doctors. They’re going to do the right thing,” Darren added, but “from the minute she got out of surgery she said, ‘I felt something was wrong.’”
Lawyers for Hirsch did not return messages seeking comment.