Having survived diabetes, a lower leg amputation, a hernia, kidney transplant and eight years in the National Football League, this is merely a trifle on Ron Springs' medical odyssey.

Simple surgery to remove a quarter-sized, sebaceous, benign cyst from his left forearm? Just another mundane errand on life's to-do list.

"Don't worry," Springs tells his wife, Adriane, on the afternoon of October 12, 2007, "we'll be home in time for dinner."

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Though the spotlight has faded from her husband, Adriane Springs’ hope and faith are undaunted. Below: At a December 18, 2006, press conference,
Mark Graham
Though the spotlight has faded from her husband, Adriane Springs’ hope and faith are undaunted. Below: At a December 18, 2006, press conference,
Ron Springs (front left) announces he will be receiving a kidney donated by his former Cowboys teammate, Everson Walls (front right).
NEWSCOM
Ron Springs (front left) announces he will be receiving a kidney donated by his former Cowboys teammate, Everson Walls (front right).
Mark Graham
On September 9, 2007, Ron Springs was an honorary co-captain with Everson Walls at the Dallas Cowboys season opener.  A month later, he slipped into a persistent vegetative state.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
On September 9, 2007, Ron Springs was an honorary co-captain with Everson Walls at the Dallas Cowboys season opener. A month later, he slipped into a persistent vegetative state.
In early 2008, Adriane Springs and her son, Shawn, held a press conference to discuss their lawsuit alleging malpractice after minor surgery put Ron Springs into a coma.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
In early 2008, Adriane Springs and her son, Shawn, held a press conference to discuss their lawsuit alleging malpractice after minor surgery put Ron Springs into a coma.

And with that, at approximately 4 p.m., Springs is wheeled into Medical City of Dallas' Building A, third-floor operating suite. Springs waits patiently in room No. 14 until he is greeted around 4:15 by plastic surgeon Dr. David Godat.

"How 'bout Stanford beating USC?" the doctor offers on last weekend's major college football upset. "Crazy."

As Godat leaves for a short break in his office before the scheduled 5 p.m. procedure, Springs contemplates his situation. He's not exactly nervous, but pensive. Anxious even.

The problem area is more of a chronic, necrotic wound—a by-product of diabetes—that's been bugging him for months. About an inch deep, it resides near Springs' elbow, constantly irritating and itching and sometimes secreting a thick, yellow, fungal discharge. It's as pesky as it is gross, but it's about to be scraped to smithereens.

Springs, whose hands and arms have suffered muscle contractures and curled into almost useless claws as a result of diabetes, sought relief from contractures specialist Dr. Bo Frederick. But he refused to perform the surgery until the potentially infectious spot was permanently removed. Eight days ago, Springs consulted Medical City wound care specialist Dr. Laurie Aten, who then referred him to Godat.

The cyst was almost removed twice in the last week (once in Aten's office and once in Godat's), but on both occasions Springs was unable to tolerate the pain despite Godat administering a local anesthestic to the arm. Surgery is the last resort.

At 4:20 Dr. Joyce Abraham of the Texas Anesthesia Group arrives. She called Springs' Plano home last night, but the couple was out to dinner at Luby's, and she merely left a message about today's procedure. She elects general anesthesia and prepares to intubate Springs via LMA (Laryngeal Mask Anesthesia).

Easing Springs' mind is the fact that Abraham and Godat have worked in concert approximately 25 times over the last three-plus weeks. Springs' transplant and amputation surgeries were performed without hiccup at Medical City. And besides, he is one of the hospital's poster boys—a former Dallas Cowboys hero and a nationally lauded recipient of the first kidney to change bodies between professional teammates, donated by former Cowboy and close friend Everson Walls.

What could possibly go wrong?

The cruel irony to this all-time feel-good-to-fucked-up story:

Springs' left kidney works just fine.

But instead of trumpeting the courage and generosity of Walls, watching his son, Shawn, play in the NFL, touring the country spreading the miracles of organ donation or possibly being recruited to perform the coin toss at next year's Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium, he lies in a persistent vegetative state in a private room of Medical City's intensive care unit.

Since the pre-surgery that cheated him out of precious oxygen to his brain and left him in a coma, Springs' life—or lack thereof—has been a perpetual Groundhog Day. For the last 900 or so nights he sleeps peacefully, but in the mornings he doesn't wake up.

"It just breaks my heart," says Walls, who made national headlines when he gave his kidney to Springs three years ago. "This was supposed to be an inspirational story. It was supposed to be a landmark victory for organ donors. And it still should be...the surgery was a success. The kidney is doing great. But when I bring up Ron's name these days, some people are like 'Oh, I thought he was dead.'"

Springs isn't dead, but he certainly isn't living.

While attorneys representing Ron and Adriane prepare to take their medical malpractice case against Abraham, Godat and Medical City of Dallas to trial this August in the 14th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Ron's movements tease friends and family with hints of improvement but offer no tangible evidence that he'll ever wake up.

Kept alive via intravenous feeding tubes, Springs, now 53, remains essentially non-responsive, unable to react, recognize or communicate. He flirts with recovery: Breathing on his own (an unobstructed airway via tracheotomy is in place, just in case). Sitting up in a chair for as much as five hours a day. His blood work is clean, normal. His skin exhibits a deep, healthy glow. Coughing. Yawning. Flinching. Opening his eyes. And recently he did something he hadn't since the dawn of the coma—he sneezed.

"He's been in there for so long you expect him to be on his death bed, but you'd be amazed at how good he looks," Walls says. "Except for being in a coma, he's a healthy dude. He opens his eyes and looks at you. He hears you. He feels you. You look for the small things. Small celebrations you hope turn into bigger things down the road. It keeps you from being disheartened, being bleak without hope."

In an exclusive interview with the Dallas Observer in mid-January in attorney Les Weisbrod's North Dallas office, Adriane talks of anger, support and, yes, unyielding faith. After working her job as an investigator for the Department of Health and Human Services and fulfilling her responsibilities with the Walls/Springs' Gift for Life Foundation, she visits her husband at night between 5-7 and most weekends. Springs also receives pop-ins from Shawn, a cornerback with the New England Patriots, and daughters Ayra and Ashley. But it's Adriane who holds his hand, reads him Bible scriptures and keeps him packed and ready for the miracle, a task that includes brushing his teeth and trying not to giggle when she accidentally pulls a nose hair, causing him to flinch.

"I know he's in there," Adriane says. "I'm hoping and praying there's a light at the end of the tunnel, because my husband was supposed to be OK. This wasn't supposed to happen. He's showing more brain activity, and I think this is unchartered territory. I have faith that I'll get my Ron back."

Oh yeah, and about the cancer. Not Ron's, mind you. Adriane's.

As if she didn't have enough on her plate dealing with her husband's plight: Just three months after Ron's catastrophic event, Adriane was diagnosed with breast cancer. After chemo treatments, radiation and two surgeries, including a left breast mastectomy, she still awaits another reconstruction procedure.

"I lost my breast, hair and strength during that time, but not my spirit," Adriane says. "You see, I know that God healed me, and he will heal Ron as well. No matter what the doctors may say."

Of course, there is always hope.

Recently a man in Belgium was found to be "awake and conscious"—merely unable to communicate—though misdiagnosed as in a coma for 23 years. And last week the New England Journal of Medicine released results of a study in which doctors discovered that almost 10 percent (five in 54) of patients in a vegetative state were able to respond to yes-or-no questions with the exact brain activity of an alert, conscious person.

On most days, however, the optimism is shrouded in frustration. Visitors such as former Cowboys teammates Tony Dorsett, Roger Staubach, Robert Newhouse, Drew Pearson and Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Reverend Jesse Jackson and international evangelist Richard Madison smile, nod and say all the right things. But...

"I haven't visited him in two months, and I'm ashamed of that," Walls admits. "I wish I was less selfish and it makes me feel really guilty, but nobody likes hospitals in the first place and then to see Ron like he is...it's just depressing. I hate going up there."

Though neither Adriane nor Ron's family has ever considered pulling the plug, Springs' minuscule quality of life even dents the spirits of men who crafted legends through improbable comebacks.

"I know there are cases where people miraculously just snap out of it," says Staubach, struggling to find the words. "But...I can't speak for Ron. Honestly, I wouldn't want that type of existence. I wouldn't want to be kept in a coma. I was sitting there holding his hand one day, kidding him about the time against the Redskins when we had a play designed for him to throw me a pass, but he panicked instead and threw it in the end zone toward Tony Hill. His eyes blinked. I'm not sure what that means, if anything."

Weisbrod maintains that Springs' doctors believe a full recovery is unlikely—his life expectancy is 10-15 years—and find little hope from recent, subtle increases in EEG brain activity. But those close to him refuse to accept the prognosis.

"I truly believe it will happen. Ron's going to get out of that hospital," Walls says. "I just get frustrated because it's not on any of our timetables. I think all of us close to him go through impatience, guilt and a lot of anger too. None of this had to happen."

While the Walls-Springs kidney transplant has deteriorated from this generation's Brian's Song into a medical mystery and a sad saga, the legal teams are preparing for a trial that will hinge on flaws vs. fate.

In her court petition, Adriane alleges, among other things, that Abraham was negligent in failing to "perform a proper pre-operative evaluation" of Ron and in "failing to select the appropriate method of anesthesia."

"Had Dr. Abraham performed a proper preoperative evaluation of Mr. Springs," wrote Dr. Scott Groudine, professor of anesthesiology at Albany Medical Center and plaintiff expert witness, in a report filed with the court, "she would have learned that his airway would likely be difficult to secure. This knowledge should have led her to either (1) ensure that she would have additional equipment and support in place to secure his airway; or (2) choose an alternative to general anesthesia such as...regional anesthesia under which Mr. Springs could continue to breathe on his own."

Adriane's petition includes allegations that Godat was negligent by failing to be present in the operating room when the procedure began, failing to communicate with Abraham about the procedure and "failing to ensure the attendance of an appropriately experienced anesthesiologist," instead of Abraham.

Although Godat and Abraham refused interview requests, their attorneys adamantly deny their clients were negligent and maintain what happened to Springs was simply an unavoidable risk of surgery.

"This was just one of those sad, unforeseen cases where the 1 percent risk in surgeries makes itself present," Abraham's attorney Bill Chamblee says. "While I agree that Mr. Springs would be alive today had he not had the surgery, there are some questions we want answered that are simply unanswerable."

Says Weisbrod, "The defendants want to drag this thing out because it will become a lot less expensive for all their insurance companies if Ron just passes away. Well, guess what? Ron Springs isn't going to die. He's fighting, and we're going to fight for him."

"This whole thing was handled with a reckless and heedless disregard for a human life."

—Adriane Springs' attorney, Les Weisbrod

While Godat and Abraham were chance partners on the day of Springs' surgery, Walls and Springs were not only teammates, but Plano neighbors, best friends, godfathers to each other's children and perfectly compatible type-O blood brothers.

Shame it's headed ghastly, because the Walls-Springs relationship was mostly goose-bumpy.

Walls, a free-agent cornerback raised in Dallas' Hamilton Park neighborhood but schooled at Richardson's Berkner High School, and Springs, a pass-catching running back out of Ohio State, became friends playing for the Cowboys in the early '80s. They each had their successes, with Walls leading the NFL in interceptions three times and Springs leading the Cowboys in touchdowns (12) in '81 and receptions (73) in '83. After both retired, Springs in 1990 was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a disease that forced the amputation of his lower right leg, withered his hands and ransacked his kidneys into dialysis three times a week. When Walls rescued him (no one in Springs' family was a suitable match) off a four-year wait on the national transplant list, it made ESPN SportsCenter and was prominently featured during CBS' coverage of Super Bowl XLI in 2007.

Walls was a hero; Springs a celebrity.

"It's bittersweet," Walls admits. "When I look back at all the tapes from those moments—magical moments—there we are, standing up in front of the big Medical City banners. Now Ron's back in there."

The successful transplant surgery drastically improved Springs' quality of life. He got off dialysis. His ashen skin flushed back normal. He began physical therapy to improve his posture, regain use of his hands and eventually leave his wheelchair with a prosthetic leg.

The two christened their own Gift for Life charitable foundation, began public speaking on the benefits of organ donation and on September 9, 2007, were honored as Cowboys co-captains at the season-opening game against the New York Giants at Texas Stadium.

"I thank all the people in Dallas and around the country for their prayers," Springs told the sellout crowd that night. "They don't have to worry about Ron Springs giving up."

They did, turns out, have to worry about Ron Springs waking up.

"I don't hope he's alive in there, I know he's alive. If he hears a voice, he sort of cocks his head, and if I drop something, he jumps. He's in there."

—Ron Springs' wife, Adriane

Adriane Springs learned quickly about Les Weisbrod's ferocity in medical malpractice cases. A highly successful Dallas attorney and the immediate past president of the American Association for Justice, the national organization for trial lawyers, "Les is the kind of lawyer who makes the other side so uncomfortable, they often pay him any amount of money just to make the pain go away," veteran Dallas trial lawyer Randy Johnston says.

Through pretrial discovery, Weisbrod learned that Dr. David Godat, the middle of three brothers, attended Stanford University and then dropped out of Baylor Medical School in Dallas before graduating from UT Southwestern-Dallas and serving a six-year residency in plastic surgery at Milwaukee's Greater Memorial Hospital. Back in Dallas he opened an office next to brother, Mark, at Medical City, and in 2006 endured a bitter divorce from wife, Monica.

Weisbrod secured the November 20, 2006, divorce deposition of Godat's ex-wife, Dr. Monica Godat, in which she testified that her husband was "a recovering alcoholic" who had on "multiple occasions" physically abused her, though she never reported the incidents to anyone other than her therapist. She further stated that during Godat's plastic surgery residency at Milwaukee's Greater Memorial Hospital, he was disciplined by his superiors by being placed on probation "three or four times" and was asked to see a psychiatrist as part of that probation. Her seven-year marriage ended, she said, when she witnessed him "making out" with one of his office staff.

Godat's counsel contends that these kinds of character issues are totally irrelevant to the question of negligence. "Dr. Godat does not have a drinking problem," his attorney, Charlie Bell, says. "He did go through a contentious divorce, but none of this has anything to do with the Ron Springs case whatsoever."

But Weisbrod counters that Godat's "underlying issues prevented him from properly communicating with his health care team. Furthermore, he should have been there in the operating room to stop Dr. Abraham from doing what she did to Mr. Springs."

Some of these negligence allegations are supported by Dr. Arnold S. Seid, a California surgeon and expert witness hired by the plaintiff, who evaluated Godat's actions. In his supplemental report dated September 11, 2008, he faulted Godat and Abraham for not communicating about the Springs case prior to commencing anesthesia despite their ability to do so. "The two physicians failed to discuss the small size of the forearm lesion, the adequacy of local anesthesia with conscious sedation and the significant severe medical problems that put Mr. Springs at an extreme degree of risk if general anesthesia were employed." In his opinion, "[t]his failure to communicate and prevent the catastrophic complications of the anesthetic constitutes gross negligence on the part of Dr. Godat."

Attorneys for the defendants maintain that they too have experts who will show that the doctors in this case were not at fault. "Dr. Godat provided care in a logical and caring manner," Bell adds. "We don't think he has any liability in the case."

Whether a judge will allow Godat's so-called "underlying issues" into evidence depends upon whether they are relevant to the issue of negligence or whether they are just Weisbrod's attempt to paint Godat as a bad person so a jury will conclude he is a bad doctor. But these kinds of allegations can also sweeten the settlement offer in a case. "The lawyer's skill is somehow finding a way to connect some salacious fact to a relevant issue [such as failing to communicate] before the court," Johnston says. "Since you don't know until trial if the judge is going to let that evidence in, a party may pay big money in settlement to keep that fact out."

On the other hand, Abraham's alleged inexperience is relevant to the question of whether she was negligent. At the time of Springs' surgery, she had only been out of her anesthesiology residency for three months and on the job with Texas Anesthesia Group for just more than three weeks. During her third week of residency at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Abraham was involved in a difficult intubation of patient Terri Rogers, who suffered a perforated esophagus and in December 2006 filed a lawsuit against Abraham and other medical entities and staff—a malpractice claim that Abraham denied but settled on January 21, 2009.

Although Abraham worked with Godat in her first month on the job, Godat maintains that it was a pure scheduling happenstance that she was assigned to the Springs surgery. Godat's staff called TAG's office scheduler (he used TAG on the advice of his brother), and Abraham's name merely came up next in the rotation.

In his videotaped deposition taken July 25, 2008, Godat—dressed in a suit and sipping a Dr Pepper between seemingly nervous swivels of his chair—outlined his routine preop procedure to Weisbrod thusly:

"I didn't choose Dr. Abraham," Godat said. When asked who did, he responded, "I don't know."

Did you obtain the previous records of Mr. Springs' hernia or kidney surgery? "No."

Did you make an effort to speak with the surgeons who were involved in Mr. Springs' previous surgeries? "No."

Were you aware that Mr. Springs had a history of difficult intubations? "No."

Did you talk beforehand to the anesthesiologist? "No."

Do you routinely offer your patients a choice of anesthesiologist? "No."

"He was a charismatic person, and we just got along very well," Godat said of Springs. "I do remember him saying that he just wanted to be put to sleep."

"Mr. Springs' unfortunate and unforeseen complication is not related in any regard toDr. Abraham providing care in a negligent fashion."

—Dr. Joyce Abraham's attorney, Bill Chamblee

Though Chamblee maintains that every anesthesiologist—through no fault of their own—will eventually be faced with a patient producing unpredictable, devastating, natural results similar to Springs, the incident has given pause to Springs' friends and family.

Staubach, for example, is putting off back surgery to correct spinal stenosis because—as was Springs'— it's an elective surgery.

"It just reminds you that the most important person in surgery isn't the doctor," Staubach says, "it's the anesthesiologist. I know every day there are millions of people put under and brought back successfully. But you look at Ron and just makes you think, 'You know what, maybe I'll just take another Advil and deal with it.'"

And when a supposedly simple surgery leaves a high-profile patient a vegetable and the lead physician testifies to stuff like, "I wasn't there at the time and I...I don't know exactly what happened," you can bet the procedure will be thoroughly examined and cross-examined.

Godat said he was talking on his cell phone and walking toward the operating room when he received another call alerting him that Springs was ready for surgery. He said in his deposition that he was initially talking to his brother, though, curiously, Mark testified that he doesn't recall the moment.

"I don't...I don't remember," Mark said in his deposition on January 4, 2010. "I don't remember if I was on the phone to him. I don't even know when the Ron Springs thing happened."

Though there is no concrete evidence to the contrary, Weisbrod and Adriane aren't buying Godat's excused absence.

"I don't think he was on the phone with his brother," the attorney claims. "I think he ducked out of the operating suite for some personal issue...But I do know that he should've been there."

Answers Bell, "It was not inappropriate for Dr. Godat not to be present when anesthesia started. He was, in fact, on campus, but unaware that it had even started. By the time he walked in, a code for Mr. Springs was in progress."

What Godat missed was Springs suffering from unpredictable throat spasms that closed his airway while under anesthesia. By the time Abraham and emergency personnel helped re-establish the passage, Springs had gone almost a half-hour with an unsecured airway and anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes without oxygen to his brain. His catastrophic damage is the result of hypoxic brain injury due to oxygen deprivation.

While the Springs camp is critical of Abraham's inexperience and lack of investigation into the medical history before surgery, her attorney backs her actions as "wholly appropriate." Both sides agree, however, that Abraham did not discuss the type of anesthesia to be used on Springs with Godat or the patient, did not check his past surgical history (two operations were performed at Medical City), did not know the source, severity or size of the wound to be removed, and didn't even know that her patient was a transplant recipient or former football player (ironically, her Facebook page states that she is a fan of the Dallas Cowboys).

"Everything I did that day was appropriate," Abraham said in her deposition. "I wouldn't have changed approach or medicines."

Chamblee says his client was well-trained, responsible and accurate in her care. "To call Dr. Abraham inexperienced is just ridiculous."

Walls, however, can't hide his contempt for the doctor. "There was a level of incompetence that turned into a perfect storm that day," he says. "Dr. Abraham just ran roughshod over the process. From the first step, everything she did was unnecessary, and the way she did it was just disrespectful to all Ron and I went through."

Despite the tragedy resulting in subsequent litigation, less than a month after Springs nosedived into his coma, his family consented to Godat finally removing the cyst, but only with her husband's current critical care provider administering conscious sedation during the procedure. The operation went smoothly.

"Things happen," Abraham testified in her deposition. "It happened under my care, yes. What happened that day...it happened. A good outcome doesn't always come out of everything...even when you act appropriately."

At 4:37 p.m, Abraham places an IV in Springs' neck; prepares a knockout cocktail of propofol, lidocaine and fentanyl; and commences anesthesia. With Springs comfortably "under," Abraham attempts to attach the LMA over his nose and mouth and down his throat at 4:46. Unsuccessful at sliding the LMA's short endotracheal tube into her patient's airway, she manually forces oxygen into his lungs via positive pressure airway ventilation (commonly referred to as "bagging"). At 4:50—after an increase of the drug relaxant sevoflurane and a second failed attempt with the LMA—Abraham tries again to bag air into Springs.

But this time she can't depress the bag. Something is blocking Springs' airway. The worst nightmare: laryngospasm.

Undetectable if not invisible, Springs' airway is involuntarily contracting and constricting, to the point of slamming shut his breathing passage. While alerting the scrub nurse on duty to call for assistance, Abraham delivers through the IV the paralysis-inducing drug rocuronium, and atropine to combat Springs' rapidly declining heart rate.

At 4:53, Abraham is strenuously attempting to force a longer endotracheal tube down Springs' throat in a desperate effort to create an airway. By 4:54, help arrives in the form of 22-year veteran anesthesiologist Dr. Quin Gerard. (By the time Godat appeared on the scene, his patient was being resuscitated.)

At 4:55 p.m., Abraham and Gerard are able to depress the bag, halting the laryngospasm and creating an airway with a burst of oxygen. Springs is sufficiently intubated, and by 5:03 Dr. Brian Gogel starts an emergency tracheotomy to secure an unobstructed airway.

Springs went without oxygen to his brain anywhere from 2-4 minutes (generally speaking, two minutes is considered a safe time while four minutes is dangerously long). Initially convinced they dodged a bullet, the doctors are startled when they administer medication to bring Springs out of anesthesia, only to be confronted by his having high blood pressure, a low heart rate, troublesome twitching and no signs of alertness.

It's too late. The patient has suffered what is almost assuredly irreparable brain damage.

Medical records from the case indicate that Ron Springs was last awake and conscious on October 12, 2007, at 4:45 p.m.

While Springs lies and stares and sits and flinches and, once in a while, sneezes—then endlessly repeats the hollow process—his attending physicians are still practicing. Often in Dallas. Godat and Abraham even worked together in surgery at Medical City after the Springs case.

But recently, according to Chamblee, Abraham's career has been significantly and negatively impacted by the stigma attached to her involvement with Springs. "It's been a devastating event for her," he says. He refused to give details other than saying she no longer works for the Texas Anesthesia Group.

And although Godat still has his privileges at several area hospitals including Forest Park Medical Center in Dallas, Centennial Hospital in Frisco and Texas Specialty Hospital in Mesquite, he resigned his practice at Medical City last July.

"He told me he chose to resign," said Mark Godat of his brother, though David occasionally performs outpatient procedures like breast augmentation at Medical City's ambulatory center. "Said he was tired of getting hassled all the time."

Asked if Godat's departure from Medical City was related to the Springs case, Bell responded, "Absolutely not."

The change of address doesn't get Godat off the hook. He's still being sued—along with TAG, Hospital Corp of America, HCA Health Services of Texas, Columbia North Texas Subsidiary GP LLC, Columbia Hospital at Medical City Dallas Subsidiary L.P.—by the Springs family.

"I look forward to all of them being forced to take responsibility for how they dealt with this situation," Adriane says. "I don't want it happening to someone else because it's devastating. Every single day. Just because all the attention is gone...the pain is still here. They were careless, and they trapped my husband in darkness and silence. There needs to be consequences."

Springs' legal battle in Dallas is off to a slow start to say the least.

Because of a procedural error, the original claim against Medical City was thrown out, forcing Springs to now sue the hospital's nurses and physicians individually instead of collectively. More important, the Texas Medical Board conducted an investigation of the case and unequivocally absolved Godat, Abraham and Medical City of any wrongdoing or responsibility.

In a report released early in 2009, the Board states that Godat provided care "in a logical, caring manner" and added that "a rare but devastating complication ensued, which is always tragic, but the standard of care was not violated."

Adds Chamblee, "All complaints were dismissed, without so much as a formal hearing. It was a horribly sad event, but there isn't anything to suggest there was anything wrong with Dr. Abraham's actions."

While the teams of lawyers prepare to play hot potato with Springs' astronomical, soaring medical bills—Irving-based rehabilitation consultant Dr. Rodney Isom, an expert retained by the plaintiff, calculates the combined cost of care for Springs over the next 15 years at $9.5 million—the patient's family remains undaunted in its legal pursuit.

Says Weisbrod, "We need to bring to light some of the things about these doctors that Mrs. Springs wishes she would've known then and that the public deserves to know now."

"I know that miracles do happen, and we'll continue to hope and pray for the best, but it just breaks your heart to see such a great guy in such a bad state."

—Former Springs teammate, Roger Staubach

No debating what happened to Springs. But, ultimately, who did it?

Abraham?

"She was an inexperienced doctor who made rookie mistakes," Weisbrod says. "And they cost Ron permanent brain injury."

No one?

"It's unfortunate, but nobody's responsible," Chamblee says. "Like humans and doctors, medicine isn't perfect. Every day in this country dozens of folks die because of unforeseen circumstances in elective surgery. Even with our advances, we still cannot perform procedures risk-free, and we won't be able to do so in our lifetime."

Godat?

"A normal, functioning doctor would've communicated Ron's situation clearly to his health care team," Weisbrod contends. "Dr. Godat not only failed to do that, he wasn't even in the room when the procedure started and ultimately failed."

God?

"There's a reason Ron's gone through all this," Adriane says. "God has a purpose for him, and it's much bigger than lying in that bed. He's going to be whole again someday."

Because Springs received his last request, he likely won't ever get to tell his side of the sad story.

"I remember what he said," said Abraham, recalling her patient's repeated pre-op desire. "He just wanted to be put to sleep."

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