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Sunday, March 25, 2007

They’ve taken their grief and turned it into something powerful: A surgical error story

He was an only child, healthy, strong, and at age 22, planned on being a pediatric nurse.

 "Michael passed out," Michael's mother Patty Skolnik said. "And he woke up in the dining room." 

Michael's parents took him to the emergency room as a precaution. An X-ray of his head showed a three millimeter dot on his brain. It was a cyst. Patty sought out expert opinion from a neurosurgeon. She said there was no time for a second opinion.

 He kept saying 'die.' You're so lucky he didn't die. We have to do this right away," Patty said. "And it was like there was no choice. It was like a train wreck happening." Patty said a three hour surgery turned into six hours, and when it was over, the doctor came out and said he never found the cyst.

Months passed and Michael was moved to Craig Hospital where the family learned the realistic prognosis.

 "He is 50% blind in both eyes to the left," Patty said. "He has no short term memory. He has severe seizure disorder, and he's psychotic." What had happened to their son? 

"Everything was primarily done from the deep brain operation. That's what caused all of this to begin with," Patty said. Michael developed multi-organ failure, then later suffered a seizure, developed pneumonia, and almost three years after the operation, passed away.

"It never should've happened. It was an unnecessary surgery," Patty said. 

The Skolniks have filed a complaint with the State Board of Medical Examiners, and the case is in review.

Unknown to the Skolnicks, the surgeon had two pending malpractice cases at the time. Michael’s parents are pressing for legislation in Colorado that would make such information publicly available.

The Skolniks suffered an incredible loss, but they've taken their grief and turned it into something powerful.

Advice to patients facing surgery: Check your surgeon's credentials beforehand.

See the short, powerful videotape of the CBS news segment or its transcript, or read another surgical error story.

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