Fenton, MO -- It was a botched brain surgery with massive consequences. A St. Ann woman went in for surgery on the left side of her brain, but the procedure was mistakenly performed on the right, and now the hospital is facing a lawsuit.
Pictures show proof. Fifty-three-year-old Regina Turner is seen in a photo with an indelible marking on the left side of her head. It was taken just before her April 4 surgery to put an end to a series of mini-strokes she'd been suffering from for several years.
Another photo shows Turner bandaged up on the right side after what's called a craniotomy bypass.
"I think everybody in the operating room screwed up. I think somehow her head was marked for the correct side," said Turner's Clayton-based attorney Alvin Wolff. "The incorrect side was prepped for surgery. A whole surgery was performed, and nobody noticed that the side was wrong."
Friday he filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against SSM Health Care St. Louis and neurosurgeon Dr. Armond Levy. He said negligence and carelessness led to the wrong-site surgery performed at St. Clare Health Center in Fenton.
According to the Journal of Neurosurgery, Wolff pointed out, there have been 35 documented cases of wrong-side craniotomies ever in the U.S.
"Sometimes the x-rays can be flipped," he explained. "Sometimes the doctor doesn't look at the medical records. Sometimes the surgery comes off late and everybody's in a rush. Sometimes, if a doctor has a whole lot of surgeries, let's say he's got eight knees to do that day, and he's got four right knees and four left knees, and the first knee cancels and they start moving everybody up, the wrong knee goes in the wrong room."
Turner, who was mobile before, is now wheelchair bound. Her speech is unintelligible.
"Every mistake that goes on in a hospital, I don't think there's any mechanism in place for publicly reporting anything like that," said Amy Gunn, a personal injury lawyer, who is not involved in Turner's case.
She went on to say that patients have to take matters into their own hands. You can go to the Your Missouri Courts and the Illinois Hospital Report Card websites to check on any malpractice lawsuits filed against your doctor or hospital. Also, she suggested calling the Missouri Board of Healing Arts, where your physician gains his or her license.
"Sometimes you just have to trust that you're going to a good place and being taken care of," Gunn said.
"I hope everybody who is operating on people pays a lot more attention because more healthcare providers are really, really good," Wolff added.
Once doctors at St. Clare realized their mistake, a second surgery was performed a few days later.
Turner's long-term prognosis is still unknown.
Chris Howard, president and CEO of SSM Health Care, released this statement:
"St. Louis SSM Health Care and SSM St. Clare Health Center sincerely apologize for the wrong-site surgery in our operating room. This was a breakdown in our procedures, and it absolutely should not have happened. We apologized to the patient and continue to work with the patient and family to resolve this issue with fairness and compassion.
"We immediately began an investigation. We have since taken steps to be even more vigilant to prevent such an error from happening again.
"Medicine is a human endeavor, and sadly, people and systems are not perfect. When an error occurs, it is tragic for the patient, their loved ones and the medical team.
"Our SSM St. Clare Health Center team is made up of dedicated health care professionals who are devastated. We can and will do better. That is our commitment to the community."
In Illinois, it is up to the Department of Public Health to track the quality of health care.
The Joint Commission, which governs all accredited hospitals, looks into problems ranging from death or serious injury to psychological injury. Keep in mind, reports are voluntary, so it only represents a portion of what really happens.
In 2012, The Joint Commission looked at 109 cases nationwide under the wrong-patient, wrong-site, wrong-procedure category. It is the second most reviewed category. They mostly see what's called "objects left behind."