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Wednesday, December 26

Unsers file lawsuit against hospital
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The illness that left Al Unser Jr.'s daughter paralyzed from the waist down was diagnosed within 36 hours, but a lawsuit alleges that wasn't fast enough.

According to a complaint filed Dec. 5 in district court against Presbyterian Hospital and Dr. Michael C. Shannon, intensive steroid therapy was ordered too late "to have any therapeutic value" for Cody Unser.

The daughter of the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner became ill Feb. 5, 1999. The rare disease was diagnosed the next day as transverse myelitis.

"If therapy had been commenced in a timely manner, Cody's injuries would have been significantly minimized or completely avoided," the lawsuit says.

A Massachusetts law firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of Cody and her mother, Shelley. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

In a statement released by Presbyterian spokesman Todd Sandman, the hospital called it "unfortunate" that Cody's mother decided to file suit.

"Presbyterian is confident that the care Cody received while in our facility was appropriate and the healthcare providers did an excellent job in diagnosing a disease rarely found in children as quickly as they did," the statement said.

Shannon could not be reached for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Cody was at basketball practice when her chest began to hurt, she had difficulty breathing and she had tingling in her legs and trunk.

She was taken by ambulance to the Presbyterian emergency room, where she was treated for symptoms that also included an inability to walk or urinate.

Dr. Michael Murphy had ordered tests including chest and spine x-rays, a CT scan and a chemical profile. But he didn't order an MRI or a neurological consultant.

Cody was discharged from the hospital later that evening.

By the next morning, her condition had not improved and she was rushed to the hospital.

Cody was treated in the pediatric intensive care unit by Shannon, and later that day was diagnosed with transverse myelitis. The lawsuit contends Shannon negligently delayed diagnosing Cody's true condition.

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