Kaiser Patient Blames Heart Attack on Botched Heart Surgery
2-5-2019 01:37:00

HAYWARD, Calif. (CN) – A bungled aortic aneurysm repair caused a week-long heart attack and congestive heart failure, according to a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court by a previously fit, middle-aged Kaiser patient.

Dean N. Williams sued Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., and Dr. Hon Lee for medical negligence, willful misconduct, fraudulent concealment, constructive fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty.

Williams, 56, worked as a computer science project leader with Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC. He ran six miles three times a week and rode his bike 12 to 15 miles each day prior to experiencing “heart palpitations” and a “swishing sound in his chest” in October 2017, according to the action.

He had an appointment at Kaiser on Oct. 23, and, after an echocardiogram, it was determined that he had a loud murmur and an “enlarged aortic root” or aortic aneurysm. He was placed off work and scheduled for a cardiac catheterization procedure on Oct. 27, the suit states.

On Nov. 10, Williams had an aortic root repair, performed by defendant doctor Lee, in which a “sleeve” was to be placed over the dilated aorta, and he also had a mitral valve replacement. Williams then had a myocardial infarction (heart attack) that was caused by the sleeve “impinging on the left main coronary artery,” the action alleges. 

Williams says he did not receive surgery to relieve the heart attack until Nov. 17. At this point, the rate of blood flow from the left ventricle of his heart was only 30-35 percent, and he had shortness of breath from any mild exertion, according to the suit. The prolonged heart attack resulted in a diagnosis of congestive heart failure, the action states.

Three months later, on Feb. 18, 2018, Williams developed pericarditis, or inflammation of the lining of the heart. The risk for this after heart surgery had not been disclosed prior to the surgery, Williams says. Another echocardiogram at that time found that the aortic aneurysm had returned. 

Williams says he repeatedly asked for a second opinion from a cardiologist at Stanford University, but Kaiser denied his requests. 

Williams paid out of pocket to see the Stanford doctor, and it was determined that his aneurysm was even larger than when it was initially diagnosed and it was recommended that he have a surgical repair of it, the suit states. His Kaiser doctors did not concur.

Williams says his cardiac surgeon, Lee, did not properly wrap his aorta with the prosthetic during the initial surgery, causing the aneurysm to re-expand and necessitating a future surgery to correct it. Lee also did not address the botched wrap job that obstructed his main-line coronary artery during the initial surgery, which caused his prolonged heart attack, which in turn led to cardiac muscle death and loss of heart function, according to the action.

Williams says Lee did not act immediately to find the cause of the heart attack and Williams and his family had to insist that his symptoms be reconsidered. “Mr. Williams sustained an iatrogenic heart attack for seven days prior to the cardiac surgeon's (Dr. Han Lee) releasing the occluded main-line coronary artery,” the suit states.

The anesthesiologist during the initial surgery also botched the anesthesia, the suit alleges, causing Williams to wake up during the surgery, leading to a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder. 

During the time he was awake, Williams was aware that his chest had been closed and then reopened, which Lee later confirmed to him when Williams asked him directly about it, but which was not disclosed to him or his family after the surgery. That was also not entered into William’s chart. In addition, the chart says the surgery took the scheduled five hours, when it had in fact taken 10 hours, the action claims.

There was an internal investigation of these events, but the results were not disclosed to Williams. The lack of disclosure was financially motivated and intentional, Williams says.

Williams seeks general and special damages, economic damages, punitive damages and legal costs.

The plaintiff is represented by Aric N. Williams of the Law Offices of Aric  N. Williams in Los Angeles, California.