Springs' wife sues doctors for letting husband slip into coma

Updated: January 22, 2008, 7:16 PM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- Ron Springs left his wheelchair in the car and walked through Everson Walls' front door in October, a first since getting a kidney from his former Dallas Cowboys teammate eight months earlier.

[+] EnlargeIn a malpractice lawsuit, Adriane Springs (left) accuses two doctors of letting her husband, former Cowboys running back Ron Springs, fall into a coma.
AP Photo/Donna McWilliamIn a malpractice lawsuit, Adriane Springs, left, accuses two doctors of letting her husband, former Cowboys running back Ron Springs, fall into a coma.

The next day, he went into a coma and hasn't come out.

The unexpected turn in Springs' promising and much-publicized recovery led his wife to file a medical malpractice suit Tuesday against two doctors who Adriane Springs says caused brain damage to her husband during a routine surgery to remove a cyst.

"My husband was doing so well after the kidney transplant," Adriane Springs said. "This is just a very tragic outcome."

The suit, which names Dr. Joyce Abraham, Dr. David Godat and the Texas Anesthesia Group, did not specify damages. None of the defendants immediately returned calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Adriane Springs said she did not think her 51-year-old husband will recover. He is able to open his eyes and breathe on his own but has little movement, she said.

Announcing the lawsuit in a Dallas courtroom, she was joined by Walls and her stepson, Shawn Springs, a cornerback for the Washington Redskins. Shawn Springs said his father had not been concerned about the Oct. 12 operation, in which doctors were to remove a two-centimeter cyst on his left forearm.

Ron Springs appeared to have been improving since his February kidney transplant, the first between two former U.S. professional athletes. Springs suffered from Type 2 diabetes, which forced the amputation of his right foot.

Walls, the godfather to one of Springs' children, said his best friend spent the night before the surgery joking and razzing his daughter about celebrity gossip.

"To take Ron the way he was after [the transplant] would have been fine enough for me," Walls said. "But now he's not even there. He's just laying in his bed."

The lawsuit alleges that Springs began having difficulty breathing as he received anesthesia, and that doctors used drugs to induce him into a paralyzed state so they could insert a breathing tube. The intubation failed and Springs went into cardiopulmonary arrest before being resuscitated, according to the suit.

Springs does not respond to verbal commands, the suit said, and is in a "persistent mentally and physically incapacitated state due to severe anoxic brain injury."

Les Weisbrod, Springs' attorney, said the coma had nothing to do with the kidney transplant.

Springs remains at the same Dallas hospital since going into a coma. Walls said Adriane Springs is not giving up hope, saying that she rebuffed a neurosurgeon who broached the idea of taking her husband off his medication.

Springs' current state is a long way from the kidney donation that became a national feelgood story last year. In the months following, Springs' once-ashen face again flushed with color and his muscles grew stronger.

In an August interview with The Associated Press, Springs said he was improving and that "If I can get back to 90 percent, I'd be happy." He said he was doing stretching and lifting exercises three times a week, and was optimistic about attending Redskins games to watch his son play.

Springs played eight modest seasons in the NFL -- six with the Cowboys and two in Tampa Bay -- before retiring after the 1986 season. In the four seasons Springs and Walls played together in Dallas, the two forged a strong friendship.

Last summer, Ron and Shawn Springs visited several cities in a campaign to increase awareness of diabetes. In September, Walls testified in Washington before a House subcommittee on behalf of an organ donation bill that would give grants to states' organ donor programs and track the long-term health of people who have donated organs.

Earlier that month, Walls and Springs served as honorary captains for the Cowboys' season opener, giving them a chance to raise awareness about their new Gift for Life Foundation. The foundation aims to educate people about ways to prevent chronic kidney disease and dispel myths about the living donor process.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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