After being in a coma for 14 months following an anesthesia issue during a breast enhancement surgery, a 19-year-old woman has died.
Before her death, Emmalyn Nguyen had been “in a permanent ‘semi-conscious’ state” since her surgery in August 2019, until her passing on Oct.4.
Nguyen resided in a nursing home for the past several months while in a coma and had recently developed pneumonia, which caused her to go into cardiac arrest the first weekend of October. She was taken to a hospital but suffered a cardiac arrest several times within 24 hours before passing away on Oct.4
While the young teen was in the hospital, her parents filed a lawsuit against plastic surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Kim and nurse anesthetist Rex Meeker for gross negligence after they reportedly administered anesthesia before the surgery then left the patient unattended.
According to the suit, Nguyen was allegedly left “unobserved” for 15 minutes, during which she went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing.
An attorney, David Woodruff, representing the teen’s parents told PEOPLE last year that the employees at Kim’s plastic surgery center reportedly attempted CPR on Nguyen twice, then waited over five hours before calling the authorities. Nguyen’s parents were not immediately informed that their child had gone into cardiac arrest, Woodruff continued.
“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.
During her time at the hospital, Nguyen required “constant care, including a permanent feeding tube, after her brain injury.” The lawsuit stated that she was facing “permanent mental and physical impairment.”
Representatives for both Kim and Meeker told the outlet that they “deny any claims made in the lawsuit.” Kim’s license to operate was initially suspended, but after reaching an agreement with the Colorado Medical Board earlier this year, he is allowed to conduct surgeries under a probationary status for the next three years, reports added.
“I don’t know what the board is thinking but I think that’s kind of unfair,” Nguyen’s father, Sonny, told the news outlet. “He nearly killed someone, and he only gets three years probation?”
After her death, the suit was changed from gross negligence to a claim of wrongful death, Nguyen’s family attorney stated.
“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.”