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When Surgeons Make Mistakes

 There is arguably no harder and more stressful job than being a surgeon. Their tasks are delicate, require extreme care and dexterity, and making a mistake could potentially cost a patient’s life, and then imagine them doing this over and over around the clock. If we’re going by the law of large numbers, surgeons are doing a bang up job at making people’s lives better, but what’s truly terrifying to consider are those times when they muck it up. Here are some of the most unbelievable horror stories from the operating table:
 
1. I’ve Got Some Good News and Some Very Bad News
Surgical accidents: castration
Hurshell Ralls, a 67-year old man from Texas, went into surgery to remove a cancerous bladder in 1999. The operation was successful in that the surgeons removed the bladder, except they suspected the cancer might have spread to surrounding areas. Long story cut short, they castrated Ralls despite receiving no consent from him prior to the operation to amputate him. What’s worse is that tests conducted on the poor man’s genitalia proved there was nothing wrong with it. Ralls later settled with the doctors for an unspecified amount.
2. I Kid You Not
Surgical accidents: kidney
Iowa woman Dena Knapp went under the knife in 2016 to remove a mass on her adrenal gland. Instead, the surgeon left the mass as it was and removed a perfectly healthy kidney, causing major issues with her remaining kidney as well as fatigue and depression, according to Knapp. What’s more, Knapp asserts the staff failed to tell her the mass she came in to have removed was still there, and she had to undergo a second procedure (which she elected to have done in a different hospital) to remove the mass. The matter is still in the courts.
3. The Consequence of Poor Math
Surgical accidents: gauze sponge
Though the first thing we think about when we hear about surgical accidents might be stories like the above, in truth, the large majority of botched operations can be chalked down to surgeons leaving foreign objects inside the patient after the surgery is done. Most commonly forgotten are surgical sponges, as a typical operation uses a number of those. There are nurses present in the operation room who are supposed to keep track of how many sponges went in and out of the patient, but sometimes they miss the count by one sponge that could potentially cause serious damage to the patient.
In 2001, Sophia Savage, a 59-year old Kentucky nurse had to undergo hysterectomy due to multiple sclerosis. Following the operation she started experiencing digestive problems and excruciating pain, and in 2005 doctors found a festering surgical sponge in her abdomen which had been left there four years prior and had become glued to her tissues, requiring the removal of part of her intestine. Savage sued the hospital that treated her in 2001 successfully for 2.5 million dollars.
Likewise, in 2005 Lenny LeClair underwent a surgery for a digestive disorder, only for his problems to worsen as he began vomiting uncontrollably and experiencing severe pain. The doctor who treated him recommended milk of magnesia, but a CT scan revealed several sponges were left in his intestines, puncturing his colon and causing toxins to leak outside of his digestive tract and into his body. He remained dependent on a colostomy bag ever since.
4. No Leg to Stand On
Surgical accidents: amputation
In 2010, a 90-year old woman from Tyrol in Austria who was suffering from a vascular disease had to have one of her legs amputated, only for the doctors to realize they removed the wrong leg after the procedure was done. A few days later she went into a second surgery to remove the correct limb.
Famously, a diabetic by the name of Willie King had to have a gangrenous foot amputated, but because of a clerical error in the surgery schedule, the operating doctor removed the wrong foot, drawing the ire and ridicule of many across America, including a spoof song by radio personality Bob Rivers. 
5. Catching Fire
Surgical accidents: fire
55-year old Becky Anderson went into surgery to remove polyps off her vocal cord in 2012. However, a reaction between the surgical laser and the oxygen in the breathing tube placed in her throat caused the tube to ignite, leaving Anderson unable to breathe and speak unaided. Anderson sued the hospital and the crew involved in the operation and won the suit, receiving 30 million dollars. 
6. A Slight Mix-Up
Surgical accidents: wrong patient
An unnamed 67-year old woman fell and hit her head and was taken to a teaching hospital for a cerebral angiography to detect blood clots and blockages in the blood vessels in her head. Afterwards, a hospital staffer misidentified her with another patient who was scheduled to undergo a heart surgery, and she was taken to the operation room despite telling the nurse that she did not have any surgery scheduled. It was only an hour into the surgery that they realized they have mistaken the patient’s identity.
7. They Left a WHAT Inside of Him?
Surgical accidents: retractor
In 2000, 49-year old Donald Church had a surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his abdomen. Following the procedure, he complained about pain and an inability to bend over, but was told that was to be expected after surgery. Stranger still, he would set off metal detectors at airports. Fortunately, a family doctor identified a lump during an examination, and an X-ray uncovered a foot-long surgical retractor was left inside of his body. Luckily, no long-term damage was caused to Church by two months of carrying the tool with him. He settled with the hospital for nearly 100,000 dollars.
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