Harry W. Green Jr. won a $2.25 million medical malpractice settlement, only to blow it all in two years on fast women, glitzy casinos and smooth-talking con men.
When Green first got his money, everyone close to him urged him to make conservative investments. He ignored their advice because, ironically, he thought they were after his money.
Now, at 36, Green lives in his aging parents’ small home just outside Chicago. He gets by on $470 a month in Supplemental Social Security, $66 in public assistance and $42 in food stamps. Because of the medical blunder that made him a temporary millionaire, he has no sense of balance, is plagued by double vision, speaks with painful slowness and uses a wheelchair full time.
Green began his riches-to-rags odyssey at the age of 21 when doctors diagnosed him with acromegaly, a rare benign tumor of the pituitary that stimulates the overproduction of growth hormone. People who get it tend to be unusually large — Green is 6 feet 10 inches tall — and struggle with distorted facial features and other distressing symptoms.
“When they told me what was wrong and what they do to fix it,” Green recalls, “I said, ‘Do it.'” But the procedure is not a slam dunk. Instead of just cutting out the tumor, the surgeons also removed some brain tissue, and Green slipped into a 10-week coma. “When I woke up,” he says, “nothing was the same, I mean, I couldn’t sit up, I couldn’t talk and I had a trach tube.”
And when doctors screw up, they seem to do it in multiple ways. Somehow, as they were inserting the trach tube, they severed the nerve that controls his right vocal chord. Before the surgery, Green had been ambulatory and independent — after, he needed so much care that he lived in a series of nursing homes. He was mad as hell. To get even, he did what any of us would do. He sued the bastards.
In October 1987, almost seven years after the operation, the hospital offered to settle. Green eagerly agreed. The attorney