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Stroke victim wins $5 million in suit against radiologist

Last modified: 11/24/2012 12:29:01 AM
Five years ago, Noel Jodoin enjoyed going dancing with her friends. She was newly married to her high school sweetheart and had just started courses for her master’s degree in social work.

Last week, she received $5 million in a jury verdict against an Exeter radiologist who misdiagnosed a stroke that left her partially paralyzed and unable to work full time.

“I don’t remember what life was like having two functioning hands, because I didn’t know I would have to pay attention to something like that. I’m so used to having to adapt what I do to accommodate for that disability,” Jodoin, who lives in Fremont, said in an interview this week.

“I will always have medical bills to be concerned about, I will have to take seizure medications for the rest of my life, and those are very expensive. It’s a relief not to have to worry about that.”

During her recovery, she and her husband used up the retirement account she had saved working at an insurance company call center.

“I was still very young, but I had built up a pretty nice 401(k) for myself, and I was proud of that. I worked hard to put that money away, and we had to eat right through it. We needed to be able to pay for life,” she said.

Jodoin’s ordeal began on Aug. 9, 2007, when she decided to go to the emergency room at Exeter Hospital because a severe headache persisted for three days.

She underwent CT imaging of her brain that, her attorneys Gary Richardson and Heather Burns of Upton and Hatfield in Concord, argued in court, showed evidence of a stroke.

A jury agreed with Jodoin, and awarded her $5 million, against Dr. Ellen Johnson, who issued a preliminary report stating the scan showed no stroke.

Eventually, Jodoin experienced further brain hemorrhaging and a seizure, and she was flown to Boston, where she stayed in a medically induced coma for days.

“When I was sedated, I had such terrible nightmares, these vivid dreams, so once I woke up, I was just happy to be alive, to see my family and my friends and know they could see me. That I was alive and present, that’s all I cared about,” she said.

She has never learned what caused her stroke, but found solidarity with other women, some who had strokes at a young age, through volunteering with the American Heart Association. She went for a follow-up MRI one day, and her technician was wearing a red dress pin. In talking about why she was there, she learned the technician also had a stroke when she was in her 20s.

“In talking to her, I got hooked up with the association, and I’ve been doing volunteer advocacy work. I went down to Washington, D.C., with them several years ago for a conference, and we went to our senator and (congressional) offices to lobby for affordable, adequate and accessible health care for everybody,” she said.

Her recovery has been long, slow and, at times, frustrating. Her master’s degree studies took much longer than she expected, but she never considered giving up. Now, her struggle and recovery is something she uses to connect with her social work clients at a nursing home.

“I couldn’t talk in the beginning. I had to relearn how to walk and how to eat and all that. If I think they’ll benefit from knowing about my story, I tell them, ‘I’ve been in your shoes. The recovery process is slow, and it’s more obvious to people who don’t see you every day. Don’t get discouraged. You’re too close to the project to see all the great strides you’re making.’ ”



(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)


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