Alicia Cole was a successful actress in Los Angeles for decades. An LA native, she had spent many years working in the entertainment industry and 19 years as a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild. But after the discovery of uterine fibroids, she worried about how an invasive surgery would affect her career. After learning that the operation would only take two days in the hospital and a week of recovery, she decided to move ahead with the surgery in late summer so she could recover by the fall, when many shows and films are casting. But after her fateful hospital visit in August of 2006, her plans were soon derailed.
Upon her exit from the operating room, she felt severe pain in her abdomen. What followed can be described as nothing short of a nightmare. Her stomach grew stiff and inflamed and, as the hours dragged on, the pain and inflammation spread throughout her torso. When the doctor checked in and identified what was clearly an infection, he enlisted the help of Alicia’s mother, right in her hospital room, to help treat the infection without washing his hands or using sterile equipment. The results of this blatant act of negligence were disastrous. Her doctor’s shoddy attempt to address the infection in her hospital bed were fruitless and only caused more pain. After days in the hospital, it was revealed that she had contracted sepsis, a flesh eating disease, during surgery, and her doctor’s on-the-spot treatment had only made it worse.
The infection turned into open wounds on her stomach and she ended up bedridden for months. Before she even left the hospital, she had incurred over 2 million dollars in medical bills. What followed was 3 years of daily medical treatments, 7 years of weekly doctor visits, and close to a decade of physical therapy. During this time, it was revealed that the doctor who had performed the surgery had numerous accusations of medical malpractice against him and that the hospital had been given many citations for poor infection control and cleanliness standards over the years. Alicia has suffered years of pain due to the negligence caused by the healthcare system’s lack of transparency and accountability.
In addition, because of the non-economic damage cap established 45 years ago, Alicia’s years of pain and suffering were worth only $250,000. In the years since, she has played a pivotal role as an advocate and activist in the fight to overturn the unjust compensation system imposed by the outdated cap.