BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Mohamad Harb likely would have been able to return to work in some capacity in the medical field rather than living as he does now with multiple disabilities had his treatment for a stroke in 2007 not been delayed.
Such was the testimony offered Tuesday by Oxnard neurosurgeon Dr. Cary Alberstone, an expert witness retained by attorneys representing the Harb family in their $25 million lawsuit against the city of Bakersfield and Hall Ambulance.
In his opinion, Alberstone told the jury, earlier medical treatment of Harb, who was 57 when he suffered a stroke while driving near 24th and Oak streets, would have significantly reduced Harb's "ultimate neurological deficit."
Instead, Harb's life was forever changed, as was made painfully evident in a short video played for the jury Tuesday that showed the former neonatal specialist at home wearing diapers under his clothes and requiring help in virtually every activity, including eating, dressing and getting out of bed.
But defense attorneys for the city and Hall have already argued and will show evidence that Harb had a history of high blood pressure and suffered a prior stroke in 2004.
Evidence described in court documents indicates Harb was prescribed medication for his condition but was not faithfully taking it.
In addition, a neurologist for the defense has already testified in a deposition that the severity of Harb's later stroke in November 2007 was so severe that his current condition would not be improved, even had he been transported more quickly to the emergency room.
It was five years ago when Harb, now 62, suffered a stroke while driving his car after a day of work at the neonatal intensive care unit at Kern Medical Center.
After veering off of 24th Street, just west of Oak, urinating in the roadway and behaving in a confused manner, the husband and father of four children was handcuffed by police and allegedly denied immediate transport to a hospital emergency room because officers thought he was drunk or on drugs. The first Hall ambulance that arrived was either sent away by Payne or left the scene without Harb at the discretion of head paramedic Brian Dumont. The testimony of Dumont and Payne is at odds regarding those critical details.
The Harb family later sued the city of Bakersfield, Hall Ambulance, former Bakersfield police officer Claudia Payne and some Hall Ambulance employees.
On Tuesday, after about a week of trial, the jury continued to listen to the sometimes technical testimony of an expected 20 to 25 witnesses, a list that has been honed down from a possible 87.
In his testimony Alberstone said, "to a reasonable degree of medical probability," the 28- to 38-minute delay in getting Harb to the emergency room may have made all the difference.
Medical scans show that only one side of Harb's brain was initially impacted by the stroke. But Alberstone -- who is to be paid $8,000 for his day of testimony -- said the delay in treatment may have been the first domino that caused a chain reaction resulting, hours later, in both sides of Harb's brain being affected.
"When you injure both sides, it's not twice as bad," Alberstone testified. "It's exponentially worse."
In cross-examining Alberstone, attorney Mick Marderosian, representing the city and Payne, pointed out that some 56 minutes elapsed from the time Harb arrived in KMC's treatment area and when the first high blood pressure medication was administered.
How can 28 minutes be so critical in this case, he asked, when 56 minutes elapsed before any treatment was even given to Harb?
But Alberstone stood firm, noting that examinations, blood tests, an electrocardiogram, brain scans and Harb's combative behavior at one point due to his confusion all had to be dealt with before treatment could be effectively undertaken.
The trial is expected to last at least two more weeks.