Emmalyn Nguyen had lived “in a permanent ‘semi-conscious’ state” since her surgery in August 2019, until she died on Oct. 4.
Her parents sued two of the doctors who allegedly administered anesthesia prior to the surgery, plastic surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Kim along with nurse anesthetist Rex Meeker, for gross negligence.
Nguyen’s parents allege in the lawsuit that the doctors left her “unobserved” for 15 minutes after they administered the anesthesia, during which time she went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing.
The attorney representing Nguyen’s parents, David Woodruff, told PEOPLE in December how the staff at Kim’s plastic surgery center allegedly performed CPR on Nguyen twice, and waited five-and-a-half hours before calling 911. In addition, her parents were not immediately told their daughter had gone into cardiac arrest, alleged Woodruff.
“It appears that Emmalyn stopped breathing because of improper anesthesia, administered by a nurse instead of an anesthesiologist,” Woodruff said. “But the worst thing is she appears to have been left unattended, not breathing, for up to 15 minutes. It caused her to suffer a massive anoxic brain injury.”
“It is incomprehensible that a team of medical professionals, including a plastic surgeon, a nurse-anesthetist, and multiple nurses, would not call 911 for five and a half hours after performing CPR on their patient who had gone into cardiac arrest twice,” he said.
The lawsuit went on to state how Nguyen required constant care, including a permanent feeding tube, after her brain injury, and was facing “permanent mental and physical impairment.”
Lawyers for both Kim and Meeker previously shared with PEOPLE that they deny any claims made in the lawsuit. Kim’s medical license was initially suspended, but he reached an agreement with the Colorado Medical Board in March that allowed him to practice under a probationary status for the next three years.
“I don’t know what the board is thinking but I think that’s kind of unfair,” Sonny, Nguyen’s father, shared with the news outlet. “He nearly killed someone and he only gets three years probation?”
During the last few months of her coma, Nguyen had been living in a nursing home and recently developed pneumonia, which sent her into cardiac arrest over the first weekend of October. She was then transferred to a hospital but again went into cardiac arrest multiple times over a 24-hour period before dying on Oct. 4.
Woodruff revealed to KDVR how following Nguyen’s death, the lawsuit will now be a claim of wrongful death.
“Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States,” he said. “Emmalyn’s parents believe it is important to tell Emmalyn’s story, not only to bring her some justice but also to help prevent this from ever happening to another patient.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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