Colorado teen suffers brain damage after breast augmentation surgery goes wrong, lawsuit says

A Colorado teen who planned to undergo a breast augmentation surgery suffered severe brain damage when complications arose as she was administered anesthesia, according to a lawsuit her family filed against the medical staff performing the operation.

Emmalyn Nguyen, 18, has remained in a “non-responsive/minimally conscious neurological state” and needed around-the-clock care since the Aug. 1 procedure, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, the doctor and nurses who administered the anesthesia and were to perform the surgery were negligent and did not provide adequate care, which led to Nguyen suffering the brain injury when she went into cardiac arrest.

“Her body is still there but she’s not there, so we feel like we lost a daughter,” Nguyen’s mother Lynn Fam told KDVR-TV.

Nguyen sought the surgery for “a better self-image,” the lawsuit says, and she arrived at Colorado Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery in Greenwood Village, Colorado, for what was supposed to be a standard procedure.

“We didn’t think anything like that was going to happen to our daughter,” Fam told KCNC-TV. “To us it felt safe.”

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The family of Emmalyn Nguyen claims in a new lawsuit that she twice suffered cardiac arrest during a cosmetic surgical procedure at a doctors office-but medical professionals waited 5 hours before calling 911. @CBSDenver

According to the lawsuit, the doctor and nurses involved in the surgery administered the anesthesia but then did not monitor Nguyen’s vital signs and left the room for 15 minutes.

“After the start of anesthesia, Ms. Nguyen was left unobserved in the operating room,” the lawsuit states.

When the medical staff returned to the operating room, Nguyen’s lips and face had turned blue and was in cardiac arrest, the lawsuit says.

The staff performed CPR at least twice, and while Nguyen’s heart rate stabilized, she remained neurologically unresponsive, the lawsuit says.

However, staff did not call 911 nor did they inform Nguyen’s family about what happened, according to the lawsuit.

“For the next five hours, Ms. Nguyen lay on the operating room table in an unresponsive

state,” the lawsuit states.

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The lawsuit also says that the staff “purposely concealed” Nguyen’s state from her mother. It wasn’t until later that evening that 911 was called and Nguyen was rushed to a nearby hospital where doctors determined she had suffered a severe anoxic brain injury from the cardiac arrest.

Nguyen remained hospitalized for 22 days before she was transferred to a long-term care facility where she still resides.

“To me it’s a miracle she pulled through all that and she is still fighting this,” Fam told KCNC-TV.

According to attorney David Woodruff, Nguyen has some awareness of her surroundings, but cannot communicate or move. She requires a feed tubing, too, he told NBC News.

Attorney Douglas Wolaske, who represents Rex Meeker, the nurse anesthetist during the procedure, told KDVR-TV, “Mr. Meeker’s care was reasonable and within the standard of care and we are confident that the facts will bear this out.”

Meeker was also sued as a result of a 2009 case during which a woman died after suffering brain damage during her breast augmentation surgery, KDVR-TV reported. Meeker was the nurse anesthetist during that procedure, but the lawsuit was settled on confidential terms, the TV station reported.

Attorney Kari Hershey, who represents plastic surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Kim, told KCNC-TV, “as a physician, Dr. Kim is not at liberty to comment about any specific patient.” The lawsuit also names a nurse at Kim’s practice and the nurse anesthetist group that contracted with Kim and Meeker.

Although breast augmentations are a common procedure, with more than 300,000 performed in 2018 in the United States, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there are risks, including complications due to anesthesia. 

“I would never want this to happen to anybody. It’s a horrible feeling to watch your child suffer,” Fam told KDVR-TV.

Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

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