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Sun Apr 1, 2001 by on News & Press Releases

Tampa, FL — The family of a 2-year old Tampa boy who died after a US Airforce physician failed to diagnose meningitis has filed a wrongful death suit in US District court against the MacDill Air Force Base medical clinic, the doctor involved in the boy’s care, and the United States of America.

South Florida attorneys, Roy Oppenheim of the Weston based firm Oppenheim Pilelsky and Alan S. Rosenberg with the Tampa and Ft. Lauderdale firm Luks, Koleos and Santaniello represent Donna and Henry Mart, the parents of young Aaron Mart who died back in September 1999. Named in the suit are the 6th Medical Group-AMC, MacDill Air Force Base; Lawrence Hsu, M.D.; and the United States of America. Henry Mart is a Sr. Master Sergeant with the US Air Force stationed at MacDill Air Force Base.

“The tragic death of this toddler could have been prevented had the doctor just listened to the boy’s mother,” said Roy Oppenheim.

On the afternoon of September 11, 1999, Henry Mart called the Military’s Healthcare Information line, explaining that young Aaron was vomiting, had a high temperature and was experiencing neck pain. They were told to bring him into the medical clinic at MacDill Air Force base where he was seen by Dr. Lawrence Hsu.

Donna Mart, who was well educated about meningitis after a friend’s child died of the disease, told the doctor and clinic staff at least eight times that Aaron had all the symptoms of meningitis. He was vomiting, had a fever of 104.8, was sluggish, had pain in his joints, a stiff neck, had clammy skin and was sensitive to light.

“While the doctor ordered blood tests, he determined just by watching Aaron walk across the room that he did not have meningitis,” said Oppenheim. “Clearly, the doctor used an inappropriate diagnostic tool to rule out meningitis and then he ignored Aaron’s symptoms, ignored his mother’s pleas and failed to diagnose a potentially deadly disease.”

Dr. Hsu did diagnose Aaron with a simple virus and instructed the Mart’s to take him home and give him Motrin.

Once at home, Aaron got worse and his father called the base clinic again, only to get the run around. Then, the Mart’s noticed something very disturbing – a bruise on Aaron’s neck. The Mart’s immediately took Aaron to a local hospital emergency room where it was too late. Despite heroic attempts by ER personnel at Brandon Regional Hospital, Aaron was past the point of survival.

An autopsy the following day revealed that the toddler died of meningitis, just as his mother had suspected.

“The actions and lack of appropriate medical care by the doctor and staff at the MacDill Air Force base clinic lead to Aaron’s death,” said Rosenberg. “They failed at every turn to recognize meningitis and prescribe the right medical treatment.”

For the Mart family, Aaron’s loss has been devastating. Donna Mart has created a website in her son’s memory and will use money from this lawsuit to work toward educating the public about meningitis. “I truly believe that Aaron died not just from meningitis but also from ignorance. We have to get the message out. This is real, it is killing and maiming our children. I thought I was protected because I knew the symptoms. That only helps if the doctors know them too.”

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Oppenheim is a partner in the firm, along with his wife Ellen Pilelsky. Oppenheim & Pilelsky, the oldest law firm in Weston, is a general practice concentrating in real estate, litigation and business related matters. The law firm of Oppenheim & Pilelsky is located at: 1290 Weston Road, Suite 300, Weston, FL 33326 (954) 384-6114.

/Contact: Julie Silver or Christine Manna at Boardroom Communications, 954-370-8999, for Oppenheim & Pilelsky.