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Former Dallas Cowboys Running Back Ron Springs' Tale of Triumph Takes a Sad Detour Through Stagnation and Litigation

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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."

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Richie Whitt
Contact: Richie Whitt