When Trial Justice Works: Son’s Life Inspires Change in Children’s Heart Health
George lived every parent’s nightmare:
He was forced to watch his son die.
George was at home watching a Miami Heat game with his only son Fouad who had been diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome. The diagnosis had helped provide answers to why Fouad, an athletic young man, had been suffering from fatigue, pale skin, and an unnaturally rapid heartbeat.
WPW is a set of symptoms caused by an extra electrical pathway in the heart. One of the symptoms is a quickened heart rate, which is what drove Fouad to visit the ER twice in the previous month and to get two exams from a cardiologist. Despite being a rare condition, WPW is treatable: once WPW is discovered, the heartbeat can be regulated with a catheter ablation. Without it, WPW is potentially fatal.
On the day of the game, Fouad was being who he always was—smiling, quick-to-laugh, and enjoying his Friday with his father. George was watching the game while packing for an international trip, so he was in the other room when he heard his son yell out. He thought Fouad was on the phone, so he didn’t think much of it—but when he entered the room, Fouad’s whole body was shaking. The lively, cheerful young man stood up, sat down, and then closed his eyes. He never opened them again.
George desperately administered CPR, but his son was already gone.
Fouad passed away in his father’s arms days after seeing his cardiologist because no doctor told him he needed immediate treatment from an electrophysiologist.
Fouad’s parents knew their son’s death was preventable. They called Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. to hold the hospital accountable for failing to provide access to the treatment that would have saved Fouad’s life. The hospital claimed that it did provide the needed referral, but their own records proved otherwise.
We helped George’s family reach a settlement with the hospital—a settlement our attorneys made sure included the following condition: that the emergency department changes its policies to prevent what happened to Fouad from happening to any other patient visitor in the future.
But George didn’t want to stop there.
"I have so much pain and shock," said George. "I don't want anyone to see what I saw. There's so much pain and grief."
Using a large portion of the settlement paid by the hospital, George partnered with the Heart Program at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to host a conference of more than 100 pediatric cardiologists to tackle the problem of sudden cardiac arrest in young patients. This year, the conference met for the second time. The conference focused on the identification and treatment of risk factors that lead to sudden heart attack in young people, especially children and teens.
“Although we never had a chance to meet Fouad, we felt like we knew him from all the kind things we heard,” said Attorney Gary Fox. “Working on his case was a meaningful experience for all of us. Fouad’s case was instrumental in changing the way some hospitals and the physicians associated with them advise patients of the risks associated with WPW. We are proud of the work we do, especially when we know it helps save lives.”
Preventing His Story from Becoming Repeated History
Part of the tragedy is that Fouad didn’t know he had WPW until his symptoms suddenly appeared. The same year Fouad died, another young man died from WPW in Miami Beach. In 2014, an 11-year-old girl died from WPW during dance practice. Her parents weren’t even aware that she had the condition until after her death.
Most people who have WPW never realize it because it’s only discoverable through an EKG—and few young people get heart exams until they’re exhibiting symptoms.
George wants to make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else in his community. His goal is to provide free EKG exams to children in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.
To date, George’s efforts have provided free EKGs to nearly 20,000 children.
At Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A., we are honored to work with clients like George, and we are proud of the work that we’ve done to support him in his mission to make a difference. Our team believes in the power of the legal system. We believe in the good that can come from holding people accountable for their mistakes in a court of law, and we believe that shining a light on poor practices can make a difference. The legal system can ensure that the same mistakes that robbed families of children, friends, and spouses with WPW are never repeated. The legal system can protect families from suffering a tragedy they didn’t even know was possible.
The legal system can, truly, achieve justice.