Amy Bright was thrilled when she gave birth to her youngest son, Jacob, at Florida’s Naval Hospital Jacksonville in 2003. But just two months after her C-section delivery, Bright began experiencing severe back pain, which marked the beginning of a 14-year ordeal, she says.
Over the years, Bright, now 41, says she’s suffered nerve damage along with back pain, making it progressively more difficult for her to use her left leg and foot. Doctors initially diagnosed her with sciatica, but a November 2017 CT scan revealed the true cause of Bright’s struggles: a portion of a needle had been lodged in her spine since the day she gave birth more than a decade ago.
“I was absolutely livid and upset and scared,” Bright, of De Soto, Illinois, tells PEOPLE. “Every time I move and walk and bend and twist and sleep, that needle moves inside my spine. For 14 years, I’ve been creating scar tissue in my spine from this needle moving. I’m angry.”
Bright and her attorney, Sean Cronin, say that a large part of a spinal needle broke off and became “trapped” in Bright’s lower back as medical staff at the Jacksonville hospital administered spinal anesthesia during her C-section. She and Cronin are accusing the hospital staff of fraud and malpractice, claiming they knew that a piece of the needle remained in Bright’s body — and did nothing about it.
Cronin says 3 centimeters of the large needle is lodged in Bright’s spine, with 2 of those centimeters directly “buried into the bone.”
“This is something that was not disclosed,” Cronin alleges. “These needles are about 9 or 10 centimeters and they have a tip on the end that the provider is supposed to inspect to make sure they have the whole needle. They knew this was in her, according to our experts, because so much of the needle was missing. And the safety tip is still in her.”
Bright and Cronin have filed a complaint against the hospital, with potential plans to file an official lawsuit in the coming months.
Officials with Naval Hospital Jacksonville directed PEOPLE’s request for comment to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has declined to comment on the matter.
‘I’m Very Scared of My Future’
Bright, whose husband, Charles, was active in the Navy at the time of her delivery, says the back pain has become an ever-present part of her life over the years. She has seen doctors who have prescribed her pain killers, muscle relaxers and other medications to help with the pain.
“It has gotten to the point where it just burns constantly. I’m very scared of my future. [My leg] is getting weaker,” Bright says. “I’m probably going to be in a wheelchair. It’s scary because I don’t know.”
Doctors and experts told Bright that removing the needle could leave Bright paralyzed, Cronin and Bright tell PEOPLE. However, Cronin alleges her prognosis would have been different had medical staff removed the needle immediately.
“There was a golden window of opportunity for them to remove the needle,” Cronin says. “By them not disclosing what had happened, it took that chance away from her.”
‘I’m Very Paranoid’
Now, the mom of six says she doesn’t talk about the incident with her children, noting that her husband Charles is “so upset” about the matter. She says she wants to shield Jacob, now 14, from the pain of the situation.
As for her future, Bright says she doesn’t know what’s going to happen.
“I don’t know what my future holds. I’m very paranoid and scared,” she says. “The reflexes in my legs are affected already. I’m trying to make arrangements for [physical] therapy, I’ll probably be in that for the rest of my life. I’ll probably going to be on medication for the rest of my life. I’m trying to prepare for my future and the help and support I’m going to need.”