Zivia Sweeney
Zivia Sweeney. Photo: USC

A nurse who was present when a USC professor was accidentally hit on the head by a falling pain medicine pump while being treated at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in 2013 testified Wednesday that the pillow on the patient’s gurney took the brunt of the impact.

Kayla Kafka said Zivia Sweeney showed no immediate signs of distress from the accident and did not complain of any pain to her head.

“She was her normal, pleasant self,” Kafka said.

Zivia Sweeney last week told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury deciding her case that she was on her third and last day of specialized radiation treatment called brachytherapy at the hospital in March 2013 when Kafka pulled back a pole attached to her gurney.

The 61-year-old accounting professor said the pole held a plastic pump through which she could administer herself morphine to ease the pain during her cervical cancer radiation treatments, which required rods to be inserted vaginally.

Without warning, the pump detached from the pole and struck her in the head, leaving her with a traumatic brain injury, she alleges.

Defense attorney Kenneth Maranga has denied that the educator suffered a brain injury during the incident.

In her testimony, Kafka said the device fell too fast for her to catch it.

“It was just out of my reach,” Kafka said.

The nurse said the heavy end of the pump hit the pillow on Sweeney’s gurney, then the device fell forward and “bonked her” on the left side of her forehead near the hairline.

“I wouldn’t describe it as a direct hit,” Kafka said.

Asked by Maranga if the pump’s fall startled her, Kafka replied, “Absolutely. We were both startled.”

Kafka said she took Sweeney’s vital signs and that the patient showed no signs of trauma or blurred vision. She said she would have summoned doctors if there was any indication Sweeney suffered a brain injury.

Sweeney complained of pain, but not to her head, Kafka said.

The next morning, Sweeney was able to walk on her own and did not say she had pain, Kafka said. During a subsequent scheduled visit after she was discharged, Sweeney brought gifts to her and other hospital staff members who helped the professor during her cancer treatments, Kafka said.

Sweeney is married to 62-year-old former USC and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Calvin Sweeney. Sweeney’s lawyers say she is now cancer-free.

Final arguments in the case are scheduled for Thursday.

–City News Service

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.