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Neurologists comfortable with Schmidt driving

Medical testimony dominates 3rd day of trial in fatal accident

Published: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 10:46 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 1:51 p.m. CDT
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SYCAMORE – The neurologist for a 49-year-old Sycamore woman accused of reckless homicide testified Tuesday that he had no concerns about her driving six months after he diagnosed her with a seizure condition.

Andrew Ta, a board-certified neurologist at Midwest Neurology in DeKalb, diagnosed Patricia Schmidt with a seizure condition April 17, 2007. Schmidt called Ta’s office and reported feeling strange the morning of Feb. 21, 2011, hours before police said she ran a red light traveling about 78 mph and collided with a car carrying a local couple who died

“I can’t really tell a person to spend time at home the rest of the day just because they feel strange,” Ta said.

Tuesday was the third day of the bench trial for Schmidt, 49, of the 28500 block of Brickville Road in Sycamore, who faces charges of reckless homicide and aggravated reckless driving in connection to a crash that killed Tim Getzelman, 21, a Sycamore High School graduate, and his girlfriend, Alexis Weber, 21, a Kaneland High School graduate. The crash happened at the intersection of Route 23 and Peace Road in Sycamore.

If convicted of the more serious charge, reckless homicide, Schmidt could face probation or up to five years in prison.

Prosecutors have argued Schmidt shouldn’t have been driving because of her seizure condition, but defense attorneys asked questions Tuesday that emphasized Schmidt’s own neurologist felt comfortable with her driving six months after diagnosing her with a seizure condition, even though he changed or altered her prescription multiple times over the years.

Two doctors testified for prosecutors Tuesday. Assistant State’s Attorney Phil Montgomery tried to call Jeff Schmidt, Patricia Schmidt’s husband, to testify, but the defense objected.

Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert gave the prosecution and defense the opportunity to present their arguments on why Jeff Schmidt should or should not be allowed to testify, and the issue is still under discussion, Montgomery said.

Andrew Oleksyn, a doctor at Kishwaukee Community Hospital with a specialty in emergency medicine, offered details about Schmidt’s medical history, saying he treated her for a seizure in April 2007. He prescribed her Ativan to prevent seizures, referred her to two neurologists, including Ta, and warned her about driving.

“We instructed her to avoid driving or avoid heavy machinery,” Oleksyn said. “If this incidence would occur again, she would harm herself or someone else.”

Ta testified Schmidt had a history with seizures since she was between 3 and 6 years old, and had other health problems such as depression and high blood pressure.

Ta changed or altered Schmidt’s prescriptions such as for Phenobarbital, which is used to treat seizures, multiple times from April 2007 to February 2011 based on the symptoms Schmidt reported to him during their visits. After his initial warning not to drive until she knew how the medicine would affect her – a standard six months – Ta never told Schmidt not to drive, saying she was a very cooperative patient.

During some visits, Schmidt complained of auras, or a vertigo phenomenon before a seizure occurs. Ta changed her prescriptions accordingly, and to his knowledge, Schmidt followed up with taking her medication as directed.

“If the patient is reliable and follows up with treatment, there is no reason to turn them in and take their license,” Ta said.

The case will continue at 10 a.m. April 2 and April 3.

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