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Woman Sues Hospital for Mishandled Cat Bite

angry catA Saginaw area woman who claims that the University of Michigan’s emergency room mishandled complications from an infected cat bite has filed a medical malpractice suit against the university’s health system. Michelle Nurnberg, 41, received treatment in the University Hospital’s emergency room in May of 2013 for extensive complications, including kidney and anemia problems. The lawsuit claims that doctors in the ER did not handle these problems appropriately and that she was given insufficient discharge instructions.

Her complaint was filed on November 25 in the Washtenaw County Trial Court. Nurnberg is seeking at least $75,000 in damages. She has stated in an interview with The Ann Arbor News that “This has been the worst experience in my life. It has wrecked my life. I want to do everything in my power (to ensure) that this doesn’t happen to someone else.”

Cat bite leads to serious complications

Nurnberg acquired multiple bites while breaking up a cat fight between her sister-in-law’s new cat, which she was feeding, and another cat that wandered into the garage at the time. She initially cleaned the bites on her own, but they soon became infected.

She went first to Covenant Hospital in Saginaw on April 11, 2013 to treat two abscesses on her inner left wrist. She returned to the ER on April 30 and again on May 5, when she was given antibiotics and referred to a hand surgeon at the MidMichigan Medical Center of Midland.

She had three appointments with the surgeon and later acquired the records from these visits. X-rays “revealed suspicious lesions on the bones of her hands,” according to the complaint and they prompted her to go to the U-M emergency room. After a 12 hour wait, the lawsuit says that she was admitted to the hospital with pain and fever, and not thinking clearly, for treatment of osteomyelitis, cellulitis, acute renal failure, rashes, and anemia. She received treatment from the infectious disease unit while in the hospital.

Malpractice lawsuit names multiple Michigan area health providers

Nurnberg’s complaint names seven physicians, the University of Michigan Hospital, the University of Michigan Health System, and the University of Michigan Board of Regents. She has filed the lawsuit without assistance from an attorney. She believes that she might have lost her arm, or even her life, had it not been for the doctors in the infectious disease unit (not named in the lawsuit) that treated her.

Her lawsuit contends that she has suffered “prolonged, severe pain, weakness and disability” as a result of the substandard care that she received and that she is still often bedridden. Nurnberg does not blame the cats (both of whom the family has adopted).

“Animals are animals. It’s not my fault. It’s not the cat’s fault. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said. A spokesperson from the health system said she was unable to comment on lawsuits currently in progress.

  1. M-Live, Cat bite victim sues U-M for alleged medical malpractice,

  2. MinnPost, Cat bites to the hand can cause serious infections, Mayo study finds,